The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?

The Rohingya: Humanitarian Crisis or Security Threat?

This article is part of “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” an ongoing series  by The Diplomat for summer and fall 2015 featuring exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis.All articles in the series can be found here.

To respond to the alarming rise of stranded persons in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, the Royal Thai Government organized the “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” on May 29, 2015 in Bangkok. The meeting was convened to address the continuing exodus of migrants and refugees from Myanmar. These refugees are mainly Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. They have been treated as “second-class” and”non citizens,” suffering from social discrimination, massive violent repression, human rights violations, and political exclusion. In addition to repressive policies by the central government, the Rohingya have also faced extremely anti-Muslim sentiments fanned partly by government-supported Buddhist fundamentalism in Myanmar.

The Southeast Asian and South Asian region has witnessed tremendous human movement – including hundreds of thousands refugees from Myanmar trying to enter neighboring countries illegally – especially Bangladesh. However, despite the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis, most of the potential host states are reluctant to accept more Rohingya refugees. One of the major reasons for this is an increasing trend in the region of viewing the Rohingya issue not solely as a humanitarian issue, but also a security and political one. As awareness has grown in both dimensions – humanitarian and security – there is a growing recognition among the international community of the need to do more than just ignoring the worsening situation of the Rohingya.

Historically, the Rohingya are predominantly Muslim and closely related to the Bengali people. Originally, many of them migrated from the Indian subcontinent towards the east into ‘Theravada Buddhist Myanmar,’ especially during the British colonial time. Relations between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar started deteriorating during the country’s liberation struggle. Relatively soon after gaining independence, the new rulers in Myanmar identified the Rohingya as economic refugees, a move that would be significant to the socio-economic composition and political power structure of the country. A policy of repression soon followed, which treated the Rohingya as illegal migrants subject to eviction.

The severity of the Rohingya migration issue can be understood as a clear result of three intermingling factors.  First is the emergence of authoritarian (military) regimes in Myanmar. Second is the consequence of a cultural confrontation between different ethnic-religious communities in Myanmar. This conflict gained significance after the military rulers attempted to assimilate religious-ethnic minorities into the mainstream Burmese culture. A strategy of an enforced cultural unification, namely Burmanization, was used as a way of “National Reconsolidation.” Third is the initial ignorance and inaction from policymakers worldwide despite the fact that the Rohingya issue was increasingly having international implications.

Today, it would seem that awareness of the Rohingya and their illegal migration is finally rising within the international community. In part, however, this new attention to the Rohingya issue stems from the tendency to identify Rohingya refugees as a “non-traditional security threat.”

In particular, there is a growing conviction among analysts that the massive influx of the Rohingyas during the last decades is creating a multidimensional security crisis. As stateless refugees, they have become the face of security threats as well as various forms of psycho-social and human security challenges in Myanmar and in their new host countries across the region like Bangladesh.

Most Rohingya who have migrated to other countries live in extraordinarily deplorable conditions. Living in forms of involuntarily and illegal self-settlement, they have to deal regularly with security forces, the unease and resistance of local communities, and restricted access to food, drinking water, sufficient shelter, and clothing. Partly as a result of these circumstances, they are often more easily targeted by criminal networks, illegal businesses, and Islamic fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), or Harkat-ulJihad-al Islami (Huji).

This in turn leads illegal Rohingya migrants – particularly those living in illegal camps or unregistered as refugees – to be perceived as the cause of conflict. The movement of Rohingya refugees begins to be viewed through the prism of the rising challenge of controlling Islamic terrorism and political Islam in the region.

At the heart of this view is the following worry: the Rohingya problem is contributing to and is partly responsible for the rise of international jihadist movements. In more operational terms, there is the claim that the Rohingya are helping to support Islamic fundamentalism by acting as a (passive) recruiting base for Islamic militant extremists and through direct support for religious fundamentalism.

It is claimed that some radicalized sections of the refugees actively maintain links with banned Islamist groupings like JMB or Huji. Some radicalized Rohingya are accused of not only sympathizing with their fundamentalist worldview but also actively providing resources for these Islamist outfits, for example, providing training on arms and explosives. Additionally, there is the accusation that the Rohingya are using their international network to allocate funds from like-minded international organizations for militant groups operating in their host countries, especially in Bangladesh.

Rohingya have also been held responsible for the undermining of the general law and order situation in their host societies. Besides terrorism, extremist violence, and religious extremism, the Rohingya crisis is also seen as being associated with all kinds of criminal activities including narcotics, human trafficking, illegal trade in SALW (small arms and light weapons) and ammunition, stealing, armed robbery, and maritime piracy. Other major concerns are smuggling and illegal cross-border infiltrations.

Additionally, Rohingya have increasingly linked with growing rates of crimes related to extortion, sexual harassment (including prostitution and sexual slavery), killings for organs, domestic servitude, and forced labor by criminal networks in their host countries.

However, there is the tendency among authorities of host countries to ignore the fact that the Rohingya are mostly the victims and not the perpetrators in these scenarios. Rather, it seems that the general tendency up to this point has been to focus on the refugee crisis as the causal factor for the increase in security concerns.

Rohingya have also been identified by some host governments and local communities as a negative disturbance to local economies, especially when they are settling in underdeveloped regions. Some fear that the Rohingya constitute an additional demographic pressure on the already densely populated area with scarce resources. Others claim that the (mostly illegal) penetration of the refugees in regional job markets leads to further socio-economic inequalities and reduces employment opportunities for the local workforce.

Still others suggest that security measures are needed because the refugee crisis is causing instability, leading to a real reduction in trade and commerce, especially in the Bangladesh-Myanmar relations. In this context, Rohingya are also blamed by state authorities for delays in enhancing regional connectivity (infrastructure) and hampering the working relationship between Dhaka and Naypyidaw.

With bilateral talks between Malaysia and Indonesia and the earlier mentioned Bangkok conference on “irregular migrations”

Source by: http://thediplomat.com/2015/10/the-rohingya-humanitarian-crisis-or-security-threat/

on May 29, as well as other steps, the international approach to the Rohingya is finally moving from ignorance to action. But it would be naïve to think this trajectory is only due to the humanitarian crisis of the refugees. Rather, the negative impacts of illegal migration – particularly on the security side – have finally convinced the international community to act, even though this may be based on unfounded fears.

Given this, what is most important is to preserve the political will and to strengthen the decision-making procedures in order to work towards a coherent and comprehensive solution to the Rohingya problem. Attending to security concerns cannot be done at the expense of humanitarian needs.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

MERHROM APPEALTHE UNITED NATIONS THE 75TH UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS THIS SEPTEMBER 2020 AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF GLOBAL PANDEMIC CLIMATE CRISIS ENDING CONFLICT, WAR AND GENOCIDES ARE THE KEY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs).

13 SEPTEMBER 2020                             

Dear Chief Editors,

PRESS STATEMENT

MERHROM APPEALTHE UNITED NATIONS THE 75TH UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS THIS SEPTEMBER 2020 AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF GLOBAL PANDEMIC CLIMATE CRISIS ENDING CONFLICT, WAR AND GENOCIDES ARE THE KEY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs).

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM) appeal for the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to find permanent solution to the Rohingya Genocide. International Court of Justice (ICJ) for violating the United Nations’ 1948 Genocide Convention. Prize Laureate activities due to ongoing Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar that lead to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya became Stateless and living in exile which subjected to vulnerable conditions.

We need a massive political pressure in order to end long decades of Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar. Our suffering continues during Covid 19 pandemic due to government systematic persecutions against the ethnic Rohingya.

We strongly hope that this efforts could strengthen the ICJ process led by Gambia. The continuous pressure from the International Community is very crucial to end the Rohingya Genocide. The ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar are not allow to vote and contest in the upcoming election which is the breach of basic human rights and democracy principle

Currently, the Genocide against Rohingya is ongoing. On top of that the fight between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar Military is still ongoing in Arakan State Township which resulted in the death of Rohingya. The ongoing Genocide and forced Repatriation only increases vulnerabilities to Human Trafficking and exploitations.

We welcome the Resolution adopted by the UN Members Countrys on the situation of Rohingya. The comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar, targeted sanctions against perpetrators, referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the situation of Rohingya need to be implemented without any delay to save the remaining Rohingya in Myanmar.

We hope TAN SRI DATO’ HJ. MUHYIDDIN BIN HJ. MOHD. YASSIN PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA, Malaysian Prime Minister will continue to highlight our plights in order to find a permanent solution for us. The support from Malaysia and other countries are crucial in ending the Genocide.  

We appeal to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to resume the internet connection in Cox’ Bazar as it is crucial for the Rohingya to communicate with the outside world on the current situation in the refugee camps and in Arakan State. We seek for the continuos support from the Bangladesh government until the United Nations able to end the Rohingya Genocide. 

We appeal to the United Nations and the World Leaders to manifest the Laws that they created for the well being of the people on earth. The United Nations must be able to stop the Conflict, War and Genocide as it was the purpose of its establishment. The failure of the United Nations to stop Conflict, War and Genocide in this 21stCentury contradicts the purpose of existence of the United Nations itself.

Ending Conflict, War and Genocide must be the Top Priority for the 75th UN General Assembly in order to achieve Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). How to achieve these SDGs by 2030 if we cannot stop Conflict, War and Genocide now? How can we ignore the cries and the blood of the women and children? How can we just watch the innocent people have been murdered by their own government and wipe out from their own country? How can we just watch the legitimate government killing their own people in the name of Genocide? How can we just ignore the Perpetrators of the Crimes against Humanity? How can we allow the Perpetrators of the Crimes against Humanity continuously producing refugees and burdening the global community?

We, the Rohingya together with other survivors of Conflict, War and Genocide call upon the United Nations to take realistic actions to End the Conflict, War and Genocide without further delay. The United Nations must use its resources to prevent the Conflict, War and Genocide rather than allowing that happen and spending most of its resources for humanitarian aid globally. We condemned any forms of humanitarian business by any sectors. If Conflict, War and Genocide can be stopped, the resources can be channeled to securing this earth in the name of Climate Action to secure the well being of the global community.

Signed,

Zafar Ahmad Bin Abdul Ghani

President

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)

Tel No: +6016-6827 287

Blog: www.merhrom.wordpress.com          

Email: rights4rohingya@yahoo.co.uk

Email: rights4rohingyas@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/zafar.ahmad.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Myanmar’s former peace icon suspended from Sakharov Prize

Myanmar's former peace icon suspended from Sakharov Prize

A supporter rides a vehicle decorated with a portrait of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi during the National League for Democracy’s motorcade campaign in Yangon on Sept. 9 for the upcoming general election. (Photo: AFP)Share this article :    

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been suspended from the Sakharov Prize Community by the European Parliament over her lack of action on the ill-treatment of Rohingya.

On Sept. 10, the European Parliament formally suspended Suu Kyi from all activities of the community.

Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner under the military regime, was awarded the Sakharov Prize in 1990 for embodying the Burmese people’s fight for democracy.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded for outstanding achievements in the defense of human rights, safeguarding the rights of minorities and respect for international law, among other criteria.

“Today’s decision is a clear response to her lack of action, her aiding and enabling of the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar and her denial of responsibility of her country’s government for the ongoing crimes against this community,” Heidi Hautala, European Parliament vice-president, said in a statement.Related News-Canada, Netherlands join Myanmar genocide lawsuitMyanmar state faces double whammy of conflict and Covid-19Myanmar military accused of failing to prevent mine disasterMyanmar military deserters admit murder, rape

She said Suu Kyi has ignored the European Parliament’s requests and has not lived up to the values which the Sakharov Prize stands for.

“On the contrary, she has made clear her support of the military that has led the assault against the Rohingya,” she added.

Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign-UK, slammed the move as “a completely meaningless gesture.”

“The EU is giving hundreds of millions of euros in aid to Suu Kyi’s government, is training the military-controlled police which took part in genocide, and the EU refuses to implement the UN fact-finding mission’s recommendations,” Farmaner said on Twitter.

“Dozens of companies in the EU are doing business with the military and helping to fund genocide, but the European Parliament thinks suspending Suu Kyi from this award is a priority.” 

Suu Kyi, who came to power following a landslide victory in the 2015 election that formally ended decades of military rule, has been criticized for her moral failure over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine during a military crackdown.

The 75-year-old one-time democracy icon has also been stripped of several awards including Amnesty International’s Ambassador for Conscience Award.

Rights groups have called for the Nobel committee to revoke her Nobel Peace Prize that she received in 1991.

Suu Kyi remains popular at home, especially among the Bamar majority, but her reputation outside Myanmar has been tarnished over her silence on the ill-treatment of the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has tainted the country’s image but Suu Kyi herself went to The Hague and defended her country against genocide claims, gaining much support from people inside Myanmar.

Businesses tainted by military links

A report by Amnesty International released on Sept. 10 has exposed international businesses financing Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, including many units directly responsible for crimes under international law and other human rights violations.

Leaked official documents revealed that the Tatmadaw receives huge revenue from shares in Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a secretive conglomerate whose activities include mining, beer, tobacco and garment manufacturing.

MEHL has partnerships with a range of local and foreign businesses including Japanese beer multinational Kirin and South Korean steel giant POSCO.

Amnesty International uncovered detailed links between MEHL and the Western Command, which oversees operations in Rakhine state, including atrocities committed against ethnic minorities.

“These documents provide new evidence of how Myanmar’s military benefits from MEHL’s vast business empire and make clear that the military and MEHL are inextricably linked. This is not a case of MEHL unwittingly financing human rights violations — its entire board is composed of high-level military figures,” said Mark Dummett, head of business, security and human rights at Amnesty International.

“The revenue that these military businesses generate strengthens the Tatmadaw’s autonomy from elected civilian oversight and provides financial support for the Tatmadaw’s operations with their wide array of international human rights and humanitarian law abuses,” Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN’s fact-finding mission, said in August 2019.

source by ; https://www.ucanews.com/news/myanmars-former-peace-icon-suspended-from-sakharov-prize/89491#

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

EP removes Aung San Suu Kyi from Sakharov Prize community

EP removes Aung San Suu Kyi from Sakharov Prize community

Myanmar’s de facto leader excluded because of her acceptance of state crimes against the Rohingya minority.21 hours ago

Myanmar has refused accusations of genocide and most allegations of targeted military-led violence against the Rohingya [File: Reuters]
Myanmar has refused accusations of genocide and most allegations of targeted military-led violence against the Rohingya [File: Reuters]

MORE ON ROHINGYA

The European Parliament has removed Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the “Sakharov Prize community” because of her “acceptance” of state crimes against the Rohingya community.

The EU assembly awarded the former democracy campaigner its top human rights prize in 1990, a year before she received the Nobel Peace Prize, but she will no longer be able to take part in events for laureates.

A source close to the EP said the prize had been awarded for Aung San Suu Kyi’s work before 1990 and could not be withdrawn but that this exclusion, made on Thursday, was the strongest sanction available to MEPs.

More than 700,000 Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority, fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a bloody crackdown in 2017 by the Myanmar military, which UN investigators have concluded was carried out with “genocidal intent”.

Myanmar has refused accusations of genocide and most allegations of targeted military-led violence, saying that its actions were meant to protect the country against Rohingya “militants”.

In a speech in December at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that lasted about 30 minutes, Aung San Suu Kyi defended her country’s military against allegations of genocide, but she did not use the word Rohingya once, in a 3,379-word speecj.

Critics said her refusal was part of Myanmar’s attempt to strip the minority of their identity and rights.

source by ;https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/09/ep-removes-aung-san-suu-kyi-sakharov-prize-community-200910114025926.html

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

MYANMAR ETHNIC ROHINGYA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION MALAYSIA (MERHROM) WELCOMES THE EFFORTS TO SUSPEND AUNG SAN SUU KYI FROM ALL SAKHAROV PRIZE LAUREATE ACTIVITIES BY EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTS.

Honorable Her Excellency
Dr. Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen
President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels
Belgium.

9th September 2020

Dear Honorable Her Excellency,

MYANMAR ETHNIC ROHINGYA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION MALAYSIA (MERHROM) WELCOMES THE EFFORTS TO SUSPEND AUNG SAN SUU KYI FROM ALL SAKHAROV PRIZE LAUREATE ACTIVITIES BY EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTS.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM) welcomes the efforts of the European Parliaments to suspend Aung San Suu Kyi from all Sakharov Prize Laureate activities due to ongoing Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar that lead to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya became Stateless and living in exile which subjected to vulnerable conditions.

We need a massive political pressure in order to end long decades of Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar. Our suffering continues during Covid 19 pandemic due to government systematic persecutions against the ethnic Rohingya.

We strongly hope that this efforts could strengthen the ICJ process led by Gambia. The continuous pressure from the International Community is very crucial to end the Rohingya Genocide. The ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar are not allow to vote and contest in the upcoming election which is the breach of basic human rights and democracy principle.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliaments to continuously strengthening global efforts to end the Rohingya Genocide and return our rights.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliaments to fully enforcement of the Genocide Convention 1948 in order to end the Genocide and making the perpetrators accountable for the Rohingya Genocide. The United Nations, Human Rights Institutions and the International Community must fully utilize the Genocide Convention without immunity to end the Rohingya Genocide.

Realizing the importance of ICJ process to the Stateless ethnic minority Rohingya, we hope for greater involvement of the European Commission and Parliaments to end the Rohingya Genocide.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliaments to closely monitor the development in Arakan State as the persecutions against the Rohingya continues. As we are challenge by the Covid 19 pandemic globally, we hope it will not stop the International Community to fight for our justice and dignity.

Note: MERHROM is a focal point for Rohingya issues in Malaysia as well as in Arakan State of Myanmar. MERHROM was established in 1998 by its founder Mr. Zafar Ahmad bin Abdul Ghani. MERHROM’s main works are focusing on advocacy, rights protection, public awareness, community development, health, education, family related issues and issues related. MERHROM has carried out its duty to the maximum level for the past 22 years despite not having funding from any agencies. Despite having very limited resources MERHROM continues to carry out the programs within its capacity endlessly.

Signed,

Zafar Ahmad Bin Abdul Ghani
President
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)
Tel No: +6016-6827 287
Blog: http://www.merhrom.wordpress.com
Email: rights4rohingya@yahoo.co.uk
Email: rights4rohingyas@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/zafar.ahmad.

Cc:
Honorable His Excellency
David-Maria Sassoli
President
The President Of The European Parliament
Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Bruxelles
Belgium.

Honorable Her Excellency,
Maria CASTILLO FERNANDEZ
Ambassador
European Union Delegation to Malaysia
Menara Tan & Tan, Suite 10.01,207 Jalan Tun Razak,
50400 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

MYANMAR ETHNIC ROHINGYA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION MALAYSIA (MERHROM) WELCOMES THE EFFORTS TO SUSPEND AUNG SAN SUU KYI FROM ALL SAKHAROV PRIZE LAUREATE ACTIVITIES BY EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTS.

Honorable Her Excellency

Dr. Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200

1049 Brussels

Belgium.

9th September 2020 

Dear Honorable Her Excellency,

MYANMAR ETHNIC ROHINGYA HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION MALAYSIA (MERHROM) WELCOMES THE EFFORTS TO SUSPEND AUNG SAN SUU KYI FROM ALL SAKHAROV PRIZE LAUREATE ACTIVITIES BY EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTS.

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM) welcomes the efforts of the European Parliaments to suspend Aung San Suu Kyi from all Sakharov Prize Laureate activities due to ongoing Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar that lead to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya became Stateless and living in exile which subjected to vulnerable conditions.

We need a massive political pressure in order to end long decades of Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar. Our suffering continues during Covid 19 pandemic due to government systematic persecutions against the ethnic Rohingya.

We strongly hope that this efforts could strengthen the ICJ process led by Gambia. The continuous pressure from the International Community is very crucial to end the Rohingya Genocide. The ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar are not allow to vote and contest in the upcoming election which is the breach of basic human rights and democracy principle.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliaments to continuously strengthening global efforts to end the Rohingya Genocide and return our rights.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliaments to fully enforcement of the Genocide Convention 1948 in order to end the Genocide and making the perpetrators accountable for the Rohingya Genocide. The United Nations, Human Rights Institutions and the International Community must fully utilize the Genocide Convention without immunity to end the Rohingya Genocide.

Realizing the importance of ICJ process to the Stateless ethnic minority Rohingya, we hope for greater involvement of the European Commission and Parliaments to end the Rohingya Genocide.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliaments to closely monitor the development in Arakan State as the persecutions against the Rohingya continues. As we are challenge by the Covid 19 pandemic globally, we hope it will not stop the International Community to fight for our justice and dignity.

Note: MERHROM is a focal point for Rohingya issues in Malaysia as well as in Arakan State of Myanmar. MERHROM was established in 1998 by its founder Mr. Zafar Ahmad bin Abdul Ghani. MERHROM’s main works are focusing on advocacy, rights protection, public awareness, community development, health, education, family related issues and issues related. MERHROM has carried out its duty to the maximum level for the past 22 years despite not having funding from any agencies. Despite having very limited resources MERHROM continues to carry out the programs within its capacity endlessly.

Signed,

Zafar Ahmad Bin Abdul Ghani

President

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM) 

Tel No: +6016-6827 287

Blog: http://www.merhrom.wordpress.com

Email: rights4rohingya@yahoo.co.uk  

Email: rights4rohingyas@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/zafar.ahmad.

Cc:

Honorable His Excellency

David-Maria Sassoli

President

The President Of The European Parliament

Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Bruxelles

Belgium.

Honorable Her Excellency,

Maria CASTILLO FERNANDEZ

Ambassador

European Union Delegation to Malaysia

Menara Tan & Tan, Suite 10.01,207 Jalan Tun Razak,

50400 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

ROHINGYA: BANTU ATAU BANTAI?

ROHINGYA: BANTU ATAU BANTAI?

source by https://alhijrahnews.com/rohingya-bantu-atau-bantai/

 

Nampaknya sentimen anti-Rohingya amat menebal dalam kalangan rakyat Malaysia, khususnya di media sosial.

Ia terlalu tebal hinggakan individu tidak pernah bersemuka atau berurusan dengan etnik yang berasal dari Myanmar itu, turut sama memukul gendang anti-Rohingya.

Pelarian atau pendatang, mereka harus dihantar pulang! Mereka mahu hak sama rata, jumlah mereka terlalu banyak, nanti mereka akan ambill hak kita. Begitulah sentimen yang menanah di media sosial ketika ini.

Tidak keterlaluan jika dikatakan media sosial, khususnya Facebook (FB) kini menjadi ‘senjata ampuh’ bagi pihak berkepentingan mencipta persepsi untuk membantu atau membantai etnik tanpa negara itu.

Penularan maklumat, tidak kira benar atau palsu, mudah untuk dilakukan melalui medium komunikasi yang tidak dikawal itu dan lebih menyulitkan apabila wujudnya fenomena berlumba-lumba menjadi individu pertama menyampaikan khabar.

Buruk atau baik, benar atau palsu, itu belakang kira. Yang penting semua orang mahu menjadi yang pertama untuk share (menyampaikan) maklumat.

Data percuma 1G setiap hari ehsan syarikat telekomunikasi ketika negara berada di bawah Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (PKP) bagi membendung penularan COVID-19, menjadi peluru percuma di perbatasan dunia maya.

Barangkali inilah harga sebuah kebebasan. Kita boleh menghukum sesuatu bangsa dengan hanya berpandukan maklumat yang ditularkan media sosial tanpa usul periksa kesahihannya.

Berbalik pada isu Rohingya, ia dikatakan bermula di laut pada 16 April lalu apabila pihak berkuasa negara menghalang kemasukan sebuah kapal yang sarat dengan pelarian Rohingya berdekatan dengan Langkawi.

Dilaporkan, pihak berkuasa memintas kapal itu sebelum mengarahkannya menukar haluan kembali ke Laut Andaman selepas pelarian (baca pendatang asing tanpa izin) Rohingya di atas kapal itu dibekalkan dengan makanan.

Sehari sebelum itu, agensi berita antarabangsa melaporkan Pengawal Pantai Bangladesh memintas sebuah kapal pukat tunda yang sarat dengan pelarian Rohingya yang didakwa mangsa terselamat. Bot itu dikatakan terkandas di Teluk Benggala lebih dua bulan selepas dihalang masuk perairan Malaysia.

Dilaporkan 60 etnik Rohingya maut dalam bot yang sarat dengan ratusan orang itu dan “mayat mereka dibuang ke laut”.

Bertitik tolak dari insiden itu, timbul dakwaan negatif terhadap tindakan pihak berkuasa Malaysia menghalang kapal itu dari memasuki perairan negara ketika kita turut berdepan ancaman pandemik wabak COVID-19.

Persoalannya, adakah Malaysia tidak berhati perut dalam tindakan itu? Adakah tiada langsung sifat perikemanusiaan kita dalam menangani isu kapal yang sarat dengan ratusan pelarian dari Myanmar itu?

Penulis beranggapan adalah tidak adil jika tindakan itu dilihat dari satu perspektif semata-mata. Jika diperhalusi dari sudut kemanusiaan, sudah tentu tindakan pihak berkuasa kita disifatkan sebagai tidak wajar dengan mengambil kira nasib pelarian di atas kapal itu.

Namun harus diingat, ketika insiden itu berlaku, negara sedang berdepan dengan COVID-19 dengan kawalan sempadan diperketatkan di darat, laut dan udara.

Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM) mengambil tindakan dalam ruang lingkup undang-undang yang ada.

Dari sudut menjaga kedaulatan dan keselamatan sempadan negara, majoriti menyifatkan tindakan pihak berkuasa adalah wajar pada saat genting itu.

“Dalam kaedah fiqah, (situasi itu) menilai mana yang lebih mudarat,” kata Pengkaji Al-Quran dan Pensyarah Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM), Ustaz Abdullah Bukhari dalam perbincangan Analisis TV AlHijrah bertajuk ‘Etnik Rohingya: Kemanusiaan atau Keselamatan’ pada Rabu lalu.

Abdullah ditanya mengenai tindakan pihak berkuasa menangani kemasukan pelarian (baca pendatang tanpa izin) Rohingya di sempadan perairan negara.

Salah satu daripada hujah kukuh kenapa kapal sarat dengan pelarian (baca pendatang asing tanpa izin) Rohingya itu dihalang masuk ke Malaysia kerana kita tidak mahu memberikan mesej yang salah kepada pelarian Rohingya di Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh bahawa pintu sempadan negara masih terbuka luas.

Kebimbangan umum juga dikaitkan dengan risiko ancaman COVID-19 dari atas kapal itu.

Data Pejabat Koordinasi Hal Ehwal Kemanusiaan Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (UNOCHA) menunjukkan terdapat lebih sejuta pelarian Rohingya di Bangladesh dengan 909,000 berada di Ukhiya dan Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar.

Daripada jumlah itu, seramai 626,500 pelarian Rohingya berada di Kem Kutupalong dan Balukhali yang juga kem pelarian terbesar di rantau Asia.

Tindakan pihak berkuasa menghalang kemasukan pelarian Rohingya disifatkan sebagai signal jelas kepada sindiket pemerdagangan manusia bahawa sempadan kini dikawal ketat.

Inilah harapan rakyat Malaysia kerana ‘kebocoran’ dan ‘pengkhianatan’ di sempadan adalah punca kenapa kita berada dalam keadaan tersepit ketika ini.

Sehingga Februari lalu, data Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu Mengenai Pelarian (UNHCR) Malaysia merekodkan lebih 154,000 daripada 179,520 pelarian dan pemohon suaka yang berdaftar di Malaysia adalah dari Myanmar (etnik Chin, Karan, Mon, Rohingya dan Muslim Myanmar).

Daripada jumlah itu, seramai 101,580 adalah pelarian etnik Rohingya yang berasal dari wilayah Rakhine (Arakan), Myanmar.

Apa yang penulis ingin hujahkan ialah lebih 101,000 pelarian etnik Rohingya ini bukannya datang secara sekali gus, sebaliknya mereka tiba di negara ini dalam jumlah kecil sejak lebih 30 tahun lalu melalui pintu sempadan negara, khususnya jalan laut.

Ada juga pihak mendakwa mereka masuk ke Malaysia seawal 70-an sebelum Akta Kewarganegaraan 1982 yang melucutkan kerakyatan Rohingya sebagai warga negara Myanmar atas percaturan politik dan ekonomi junta Myamar.

Mana mungkin ratusan ribuan Rohingya ini diseludup masuk secara mudah ke Malaysia jika tiada ‘pembelotan’ pihak tertentu yang mengaut keuntungan melalui sindiket pemerdagangan manusia.

Menteri Dalam Negeri, Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin dilaporkan berkata pelarian Rohingya yang bolos ke negara ini dikatakan membayar sehingga RM15,000 seorang kepada sindiket untuk masuk ke Malaysia.

Jika penindasan dan keengganan Myanmar menerima rakyat mereka sendiri (Rohingya) menjadi punca utama krisis kemanusiaan etnik tanpa negara itu, maka permasalahan di sempadan kita juga adalah luka yang meletakkan Malaysia dalam kedudukan ‘sakit’ ketika ini.

Pun begitu penulis tidak bersetuju dengan tindakan pihak tententu yang menjadikan aktivis kemanusiaan dan badan bukan kerajaan (NGO) berkaitan Rohingya sebagai “punching bag” dalam isu ini sehinggakan mereka diserang secara peribadi kerana mempertahankan kelompok pelarian itu.

Sekalipun, tidakan di laut itu dilihat wajar berdasarkan keadaan semasa, penulis berpandangan sentimen anti-Rohingya ketika ini tidak seharusnya berlaku apabila kebencian secara pukul rata disemai terhadap Rohingya.

Ketika ini, apa saja video tular di media sosial dan menampakkan individu yang kelihatan seperti Rohingya dikatakan Rohingya.

Sedangkan kita tidak tahupun membezakan antara etnik Rohingya, Benggali (Bangladesh) dan Muslim Myanmar. (Perihal siapa dan kehidupan Rohingya di Myanmar dan Bangladesh serta perbezaan budaya dengan orang Malaysia akan penulis kupas dalam artikel berasingan)

Sentimen anti-Rohingya itu bermula dengan posting dari beberapa page di Facebook yang menyebarkan dakwaan kononnya Rohingya menuntut hak sama rata. Posting ini juga dikaitkan dengan insiden kapal Rohingya yang dihalang masuk ke perairan Malaysia.

Dakwaan itu cepat membakar sentimen rakyat Malaysia yang sememangnya tertekan berada di bawah Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (PKP) dan mungkin menjadikan media sosial sebagai tempat meluahkan pandangan, perasaan dan ketidakpuasan dalam banyak perkara.

Adakah kebencian terhadap etnik Rohingya bentuk manifestasi keadaan psikologi rakyat yang terpaksa bertahan di bawah tekanan PKP dengan sebahagian besar kehilangan pekerjaan akibat kekangan aktiviti ekonomi sejak 18 Mac lalu?

Dakwaan kononnya Rohingya menuntut hak sama rata dengan menjadikan sepucuk surat dari seorang ketua pertubuhan Rohingya di Malaysia tular dengan pantas sehinggalah ada pihak membuat petisyen supaya pelarian Rohingya dihantar pulang ke Myanmar.

Petisyen itu mendapat sokongan 30,000 individu yang tidak berpuas hati dengan pelarian Rohingya atas sebab-sebab tertentu.

Carian penulis di media sosial sehingga hari ini tidak menemui posting asal yang mendakwa kononnya etnik Rohingya meminta hak sama rata dan mahu menjadi warga Malaysia.

Kebanyakan posting asal itu sudah dipadamkan, malah page Facebook yang sebelum ini membakar sentimen rakyat Malaysia turut dipadamkan. Lebih meragukan apabila tiada siapapun tahu pengendali page ini yang tentunya berselindung di sebalik ‘kebebasan identiti’ di media sosial.

Ini termasuklah page “32 Juta Rakyat Malaysia Tolak Rohingya” yang sudah dipadamkan pengendalinya.

“Kehilangan” page yang dulunya menjadi bahan api kepada sentimen anti-Rohingya, termasuk petisyen menghantar pulang pelarian Rohingya yang mendapat 30,000 tandatangan yang sudah dipadamkan itu, menimbulkan persoalan adakah isu Rohingya ini sengaja dicetuskan pihak tertentu.

Jika benar ia usaha terancang, apakah natijah di sebalik komplot menjadikan etnik pelarian itu sebagai sasaran kebencian.

Penulis berharap pihak berkuasa, khususnya Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM), akan menyiasat perkara ini hingga ke akar umbi kerana sentimen anti-Rohingya itu mampu menggugat keamanan jika tidak ditangani dengan baik.

Fenomena anti-Rohingya yang meledak secara tiba-tiba ini sebenarnya amat membingungkan ramai pihak, termasuk penulis yang terbabit dalam liputan zon konflik dan bencana.

Ini kerana Malaysia sejak dari zaman pemerintahan kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN) hinggalah bertukar tangan kepada Pakatan Harapan (PH) dan kini di bawah Perikatan Nasional (PN) sentiasa konsisten membantu etnik yang berasal dari Myanmar itu.

Malah di rantau Asia, Malaysia dianggap sebagai juara dalam isu ini ketika Turki turut menikmati status yang sama membantu etnik tidak bernegara itu selepas Presiden Recep Tayyip Erdogan menghantar isterinya dan juga Menteri Luar Turki pada September 2017 untuk melihat situasi kebanjiran etnik Rohingya dari Myanmar ke Bangladesh pada akhir Ogos tahun sama.

Ketika itu, lebih 400,000 pelarian Rohingya dari Maungdaw di utara Rakhine, Myanmar melarikan diri ke selatan Bangladesh selepas berlaku pembantaian ke atas mereka oleh tentera Myanmar.

Dilaporkan, etnik Rohingya dibunuh, perempuan mereka dirogol dan rumah mereka dibakar oleh tentera Myanmar dengan asap-asap kemusnahan boleh dilihat di sempadan Bangladesh-Myanmar.

Ramai juga yang tidak tahu selepas Turki menghantar bantuan, Malaysia adalah negara pertama di Asia yang menghantar bantuan ke Cox’s Bazar juga pada September 2017 untuk membantu Bangladesh menangani krisis kemanusiaan itu akibat pembantaian Rohingya di barat Myanmar.

Sebelum itu di pentas antarabangsa Malaysia telah menggembelengkan usaha untuk menekan Myanmar supaya bertanggungjawab dalam krisis kemanusiaan membabitkan etnik Rohingya sejak 2012.

Misalnya, pada Sidang Kemuncak Luar Biasa Persidangan Kerjasama Islam (OIC) pada 2017 di Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia membangkitkan isu Rohingya secara jelas tetapi ia tidak mendapat kesepakatan anggota OIC melainkan sokongan segelintir negara seperti Turki, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Pakistan dan Indonesia.

Kesemua negara yang menyokong Malaysia adalah negara yang terkesan secara langsung dalam konflik Rohingya kecuali Turki. Arab Saudi misalnya menjadi tempat perlindungan sekitar 200,000 pelarian Rohingya.

Malah pada Februari 2017, Malaysia melalui gerakan pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO) yang diketuai Kelab Putera 1Malaysia (KP1M) dan Majlis Perundingan Pertubuhan Islam Malaysia (MAPIM) telah menghantar 2,300 tan bantuan makanan dan ubatan ke Myanmar dan Bangladesh melalui jalan laut untuk membantu menangani krisis kemanusiaan itu.

Melalui misi pelayaran “Food Flotilla ke Myanmar” lebih 200 sukarelawan, aktivis kemanusiaan dan pengamal media daripada 12 negara menghantar mesej solidariti bersama etnik Rohingya yang ditindas di Myanmar.

Penulis ketika itu mewakili Berita Harian/New Straits Times Press bertindak sebagai koordinator bagi lebih 20 wakil media, tempatan dan antarabangsa, yang mengikuti misi pelayaran kemanusiaan itu.

Penulis berpandangan misi yang menggabungkan sukarelawan dengan pelbagai latar belakang politik, ketika itu di antara UMNO dan PAS yang berseteru di pentas politik tetapi bersatu kerana isu kemanusiaan, adalah manifestasi komitmen Malaysia kepada pelarian Rohingya yang ditindas.

Pun begitu ada satu hakikat yang tidak pernah berubah dari dulu sampai sekarang iaitu Malaysia tidak pernah menerima atau menandatangani Konvensyen Geneva Mengenai Pelarian 1951 dan Protokol Status Pelarian 1967.

Ini bermakna Malaysia tidak terikat untuk menyediakan ruang pekerjaan, akses pendidikan dan kesihatan kepada kelompok pelarian/pemohon suaka dalam kerangka undang-undang sah.

Ini menerangkan kenapa pelarian, termasuk etnik Rohingya, tidak diktiraf di Malaysia dan hanya dibantu atas dasar kemanusiaan dan mungkin juga atas dasar sentimen agama sebahagian rakyat negara ini.

Dari sudut undang-undang negara, pelarian ini diklasifikasikan sebagai pendatang asing tanpa izin dengan hak yang minimum.

Pun begitu pelarian yang telah tiba di negara ini tidak boleh dihantar pulang dengan sewenang-wenangnya sepertimana yang dituntut sebahagian warga Malaysia ketika ini.

Walaupun Malaysia tidak terikat untuk memberikan hak pekerjaan, akses kesihatan dan pendidikan kepada kelompok pendatang ini, etnik Rohingya tidak boleh dihantar pulang ke Myanmar berdasarkan prinsip ‘non-refoulement’.

Berdasarkan undang-undang antarabangsa itu, Malaysia sama sekali tidak boleh menghantar pulang pelarian ke tempat di mana berlaku penindasan ke atas kelompok pelarian itu.

Burma Human Right Network (BHRN) dalam kenyataannya pada 29 April lalu berkata, pertempuran masih berlaku di wilayah Rakhine.

Malah BHRN melaporkan pihak kerajaan turut menggunakan senjata berat dan helikopter untuk membedil kedudukan penentang.

“BHRN menerima laporan harian mengenai mengenai pertempuran antara Tentera Myanmar dan kumpulan penentang Arakan di kawasan awam. Penggunaan senjata berat di kawasan ini menyebabkan kematian dan kecederaan dalam kalangan orang awam,” kata Pengarah Eksekutif BHRN, Kyaw Win dalam kenyataannya kepada AlHijrah Online.

Penulis beranggapan penulisan individu tertentu kononnya keadaan sudah aman di Rakhine, Myanmar dan menyalahkan etnik Rohingya kerana tidak mahu pulang ke Myanmar adalah tidak berasas, dangkal dan berat sebelah.

Berbalik kepada sentimen anti-Rohingya ketika ini, penulis berpandangan ia bertitik tolak daripada pengalaman/permasalahan sosial di antara kelompok pelarian dan penduduk tempatan, khususnya di Selayang akibat perbezaan budaya bersulamkan isu peribadi pihak tertentu yang digembar-gemburkan di media sosial (baca Facebook).

Ini termasuklah isu perbalahan dan cabar-mencabar membabitkan individu etnik Rohingya di media sosial sehingga ia dilihat cuba mencabar penduduk tempatan.

Bagaimanapun, ada pihak sengaja membakar sentimen anti-pendatang itu di media sosial dengan memuatnaikkan rakaman visual dengan sebahagiannya memberikan gambaran palsu, termasuklah mengenai tuntutan Zafar Ahmad dari NGO, Pertubuhan Hak Asasi Manusia Etnik Rohingya Myanmar Malaysia (MERHROM).

Jika diteliti secara rasional, permintaan empat perkara iaitu; kebenaran bekerja secara sah di sektor yang difikirkan sesuai, mewajibkan majikan mengambil insuran, memohon diskaun bayaran kesihatan dan memohon pelarian Rohingya tidak ditahan jika bekerja, bukanlah tuntutan hak sama rata.

Ia adalah tuntutan (baca permintaan) pelarian Rohingya yang sememangnya tidak diiktiraf hak mereka berdasarkan undang-undang negara. Hakikatnya, mereka boleh minta apa saja, tetapi ia terpulang kepada kerajaan dan rakyat Malaysia untuk memutuskannya.

Mengenai isu pendatang di pasar borong Selayang yang dikatakan kebal dari tindakan pihak berkuasa. Persoalannya, ini adalah undang-undang kita, yang menguatkuasakannya juga orang kita dan berlaku di negara kita, kenapa isu ini tidak boleh diselesaikan?

Pengkaji Budaya dan Sosiologi Rohingya, Dr Azlinariah Abdullah berkata adalah tidak adil untuk menghukum seluruh etnik Rohingya berdasarkan tindakan segelintir pihak.

“Mustahil mereka boleh ambil tempat orang tempatan untuk dominasi ekonomi,” katanya dalam temubual program Analisis, Rabu lalu sambil menjelaskan kajiannya menunjukkan Rohingya mahu pulang ke negara asal (Myanmar) apabila situasi sudah selamat.

Lebih 101,000 etnik Rohingya yang ada di Malaysia haruslah dilayan dengan bermaruah sebagai manusia yang juga berhak untuk hidup. Janganlah kita menghukum mereka kerana resam nila setitik (individu bermasalah), rosak susu sebelanga.

Bukan semua Rohingya berperangai seperti segelintir yang membuat onar di pasar borong Selayang.

Majoritinya amat terhutang budi atas belas ehsan rakyat Malaysia berbilang agama dan bangsa sejak sekian lamanya. Kalaupun kita mahu menghantar mereka pulang, jangan menghalau mereka dengan kebencian. – AlHijrah Online

Penulis adalah wartawan di zon konflik dan bencana yang pernah ditugaskan membuat liputan isu pelarian di Gaza (Palestin), Syria, Turki, Lubnan, Somalia, Yaman, Perancis, UK, Greece dan isu etnik Rohingya di Myanmar, Bangladesh dan Malaysia.

Penafian: Artikel yang disiarkan AlHijrah Online ini adalah pandangan peribadi penulis. Ia tidak menggambarkan pendirian Editorial AlHijrah Media Corporation dalam isu yang dikupas.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

DID ROHINGYA REFUGEES ACTUALLY ASK FOR MALAYSIAN CITIZENSHIP? WE CHECK THIS AND OTHER CLAIMS.

DID ROHINGYA REFUGEES ACTUALLY ASK FOR MALAYSIAN CITIZENSHIP? WE CHECK THIS AND OTHER CLAIMS.

“Prior to this, there was no issue with them coming here. But of late, during the movement control order (MCO) there have been many reports and videos on social media on the Rohingya to provoke public anger towards them,” – Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Senior Minister for Security, as quoted by FMT.

It may not be so worrying if the outrage stayed online, but it seems that some were so affected by the issue that they’re taking it out into the real world, like this one guy who harassed a Rohingyan grass cutter, filmed it, and uploaded it online.

So what’s with the sudden hate for Rohingya people? While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause, the outrage seemed to follow several recent events:

Regardless of how it started, since then posts about Rohingyans have been floating around on the net, and whether they’re true or not, they’ve added fuel to some Malaysians’ hatred for them. Today, we’ll be looking at some of the themes surrounding these posts, starting with perhaps the biggest one…

 

CLAIM: Rohingyas are demanding Malaysian citizenships, among other things

Why people would think that:

While we’re not sure how this started exactly, it seems that a letter by MERHROM, a Rohingyan human rights organization in Malaysia, seems to be the cause. This letter to the Human Resources Minister was from January this year, and it allegedly listed out the demands made by MERHROM to the Malaysian government. The headlines of pages that circulate this letter imply that the Rohingyans are overstepping their boundaries as refugees by making demands.

The situation then through some videos, one of which depicted Zafar Abdul Ghani, the president of MERHROM, speaking English in a heavy accent. The Malay subtitles essentially said that Rohingyas want

“equal rights, Malaysian identity cards, to marry Malay women, and to own businesses. The government cannot touch them, as their numbers are huge.”

Another video listed down 12 demands allegedly made the Rohingyas in Malaysia, which among other things include

  1. Exclusive permission for Rohingya refugee boats to enter Malaysia
  2. Equal, organized and structured education for the children of Rohingyan refugees
  3. Insisting employers to bear all medical costs for their Rohingyan workers
  4. Working permits, insurance and Socso for Rohingyan workers
  5. Malaysian citizenship, like for the Chinese and Indians who came to Malaya decades ago

How true is this?

If you read the MERHROM letter carefully, it’s not really a demand. Rather, it listed out the problems faced by Rohingyan refugees trying to work in Malaysia, and for the Minister to consider some suggestions:

  • allowing Rohingyan refugees to work based on the sector they’re suited to,
  • making it compulsory for their employers to insure them,
  • reducing treatment costs and allowing treatment for wage earners in risky cases, and
  • not detaining working Rohingyan refugees on humanitarian grounds.

There seem to be no mention of a request for citizenship in the letter, but it was mentioned in the subtitled video of Zafar, when he allegedly asked for ‘identity cards’. However, if you listen carefully and read the real subtitles put by the re-poster, Zafar’s speech was a plea for help from international communities. It’s a parody video, but with that accent, some may believe the Malay subtitles to be true.

The final video do not have a source, but the points related to working conditions seem to be derived from MERHROM’s letter and highly furnished, particularly from the second page. As for the other points, most seem to be furnished versions of the issues facing Rohingyan refugees in Malaysia in general, except for the education pointZafar did ask for the government to open up formal education to Rohingyan children in February.

It may be worth mentioning that Zafar is married to a local Malay, and according to law, if a local woman marries a foreign man and has a child in Malaysia, the child will be given a Malaysian citizenship. This might be a source of the whole citizenship thing, as well as the weird part about marrying Malay women in the parody video.

Curiously, other Rohingyans have apologized for MERHROM’s ‘unrealistic and irresponsible’ statement, despite MERHROM’s letter not being what it was touted to be. Maybe we’re missing something here, but on the note of asking for things…

 

CLAIM: Rohingyas are asking the government to give the Selayang area to them

Why people would think that

This one’s a little hard to pinpoint, but it seemed to have come from a WhatsApp audio clip. The clip is about 45 seconds long, and if you don’t feel like listening to Malay with an accent, here’s the rough translation.

“Whether it’s provocation, controversy, innovation, or conspiracy, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear. Now, the Malaysian government must give equal rights to us, the minorities, the Rohingya refugees. We have contributed to the country’s economy. Now give us rights to, uh, claim our rights. We are also humans. It’s enough to give us Selayang. Selayang. Give it to us. Selayang is Rohingya’s territory. These Malay people, don’t disturb.”

As for why Selayang, it appears that the Selayang wet market is a place where a lot of Rohingyas work and live near to. With the EMCO being enforced there recently, the Rohingyas’ alleged disregard for hygiene seemed to make people see them as potentially risky carriers of Covid-19. To add to the problem, some Rohingyans in the area are claimed to not comply to the EMCO, by riding or driving with more than one person in the vehicle, and cutting the barbed wires surrounding the area.

There were also rumors of a street protest in Selayang following the EMCO, and some videos have since popped up showing Rohingyas protesting for human rights.

How true is this?

For the audio clip, as some have pointed out in the comments of the video, the accent is not quite Rohingyan. For comparison, here is a very recent interview with Zafar, who still has that Rohingyan accent despite having been in Malaysia at least since 1998:

The huge difference in the accent, plus how little else is known of the allegation, makes it possible that it could have been someone unsuccessfully mimicking a Rohingyan accent and spreading it around, maybe as a joke (which is not uncommon, btw). However, it should be noted that there were claims of Rohingyan gangs dealing drugs in Selayang, so maybe it’s real. Who knows?

As for some Rohingyas allegedly flouting the EMCO, well, there isn’t a credible report that specifically states Rohingyas doing that being a common thing. There was a report where a 13-year-old Rohingyan boy was remanded for a week for flouting the MCO, but other than that ethnicities aren’t usually reported in the news. For example, BERNAMA had published a video of one foreigner crawling through the barbed wires surrounding their compound, but his ethnicity wasn’t specified. But based on our own compliance rate, we can assume that people of all races have flouted the MCO at one time or another, and not just Rohingyas.

Regarding the street protests, if there is one, then the media is keeping unnaturally quiet about it. There had been no reports of such a protest in Selayang, and most of the videos that popped up recently was actually of another protest back on Merdeka’s eve 2017. It later turned unruly, but it wasn’t a recent protest.

Finally…

 

CLAIM: Rohingyas are terrible, digusting people

Why people would think that

Following the things that happened in the first two headers, some have took to social media and wrote lengthy posts about their experience with Rohingya refugees. There are several versions of this, and a popular one is from a construction company worker who employed some Rohingya refugees. According to this version, the 20 or so Rohingya refugees working for his company were reportedly being noisy late into the night, and harassing the wives and daughters of other foreign workers in the worker housing area.

The story also highlighted their habit of pooping in plastic bags and polystyrene containers and leaving them around (despite toilets with running water having been provided), their tendency to physically fight their Bangladeshi and Pakistani co-workers over the smallest matters, their resistance to learn from those more experienced in work matters, and their tendency to use the fact that they’re Muslims to gain sympathy with the Malays.

Further adding to the perception, some have quoted Bukit Malut in Langkawi as a cautionary tale if we let too many Ronhingyas into Malaysia. Bukit Malut is supposedly a well-known Rohingya settlement in Langkawi, so much that some have dubbed it as ‘little Myanmmar‘. Besides being said to be a hotspot for drugs and crime activities, the place is also reportedly very dirty, with trash filling up the streets and the beach there.

How true is this sentiment?

Well, this one is kind of hard to verify. There haven’t been studies done yet on the alleged negative attitudes of Rohingya people in Malaysia, and a common way to verify their attitudes in the comments online is “if you work/live/spend some time with the Rohingyas, then you would know what I mean”. All we have to go on with are anecdotes, which is confusing since now there are many posts that point out how some Rohingyas are good, or that they are like that because of their circumstances.

So maybe the answer here is that not all Rohingyas harass other people’s wives and daughters or poop in plastic bags, but not all Rohingyas are good people, either.

As for the Bukit Malut issue, the part where it’s dirty is true to some extent, but part of it was due to poor management, like a lack of rubbish bins. The area is also not under the local authorities’ jurisdiction, it seems. But who lives there is actually filled with mystery, though. The official stance seem to be that they’re not Rohingyas, but are mostly Malays and other races who have lived in Myanmmar before. They have been a source of interest for some time since it is said that many of them have MyKads, and are thus able to vote.

Well, there are probably a lot of other issues related to the Rohingyas that we can’t cover in this article, but these are the most common ones. But to end today’s subject, here’s one last question.

 

Why are some Malaysians suddenly so very angry with Rohingyas?

If you’ve read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, you might have seen some parallels from the novel to our current situation. In the novel, farming families from Oklahoma suddenly lost their farms to the Dust Bowl, so they migrated en masse to California to look for work. However, the Californians hated them, and labelled them as ‘Okies’. As for why…

“Okies – the (land) owners hated them because the owners knew they were soft and the Okies strong, that they were fed and the Okies hungry; and perhaps the owners had heard from their grandfathers how easy it is to steal land from a soft man if you are fierce and hungry and armed…

And in the towns, the storekeepers hated them because they had no money to spend… The town men, little bankers, hated Okies because there was nothing to gain from them. They had nothing.

And the laboring people hated Okies because a hungry man must work, and if he must work, if he has to work, the wage payer automatically gives him less for his work; and then no one can get more.” – excerpt from ‘The Grapes of Wrath‘ by John Steinbeck.

It might not be a perfect parallel to the Rohingya situation in Malaysia, but it might explain why rumors about Rohingyas demanding for citizenship and other things can be a threat to some Malaysians: there might be an underlying fear that Rohingyas are here to stay and make things worse for everybody. While we’re not denying the possibility that some might intend to do that, the fear may not be as serious after all.

According to a 2020 survey, at least 70% of Malaysians don’t want Rohingyans refugees to be resettled in Malaysia. Perhaps surprisingly to some, a majority of Rohingyas interviewed by the UNHCR don’t want to stay here, either, due to feelings of not being welcomed. Some would prefer to go back to Myanmmar if things improve, while others want to be resettled in a country that would accept them. But the process seemed to be very slow for them, for some reason.

“Why are new people resettled very fast but not us? Chin and Kachin get resettled very fast. We have been here for decades. Many refugees have been here since 1992 but newer refugees are called for resettlement first. We don’t know why – is there something wrong with us? Can people pay to resettle? Is it that we are poor and cannot pay?” – a Rohingyan refugee, as interviewed by the UNHCR.

Some Rohingya individuals may be problematic, but by lumping every Rohingya together under the campaign of hate on social media, it will cause problems for those who don’t deserve the hate in the first place. Since we will probably co-exist with Rohingyas for quite some time more, perhaps both Malaysians and Rohingyans can refrain from doing things that can make the situation any more uncomfortable than it already is, and stop spreading unnecessary things online.

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Campaign of Hate? Fake News and Anti-Refugee Rhetoric in Malaysia

Campaign of Hate? Fake News and Anti-Refugee Rhetoric in Malaysia

Harris Zainul was quoted in New Naratif

Article by Jules Rahman Ong,  20 June 2020

Abdul Wahid, 40, came to Malaysia seven years ago in a rickety fishing boat cramped with 135 others—it’s a number he still remembers to this day. He, his wife and baby never planned to go to Malaysia. But they were forced to flee from the Myanmar Army who burned down their village in Rakhine State.

“It was chaos, people were shot by the Myanmar soldiers and our homes burned down,” Abdul Wahid says of the attacks that befell his village. “We ran to the shore and got into a big fishing boat that belonged to one of the villagers and escaped. We didn’t know where to go, except that we had to flee.”

Desperation and a lack of options led to a string of events that resulted in Abdul Wahid and his family being held for ransom by traffickers and taken to Malaysia. In the seven years since, he has worked in a variety of jobs illegally—from pushing vegetable carts in a wholesale market, to collecting recyclables and working in construction. His most recent job was welding air-conditioners for meagre wages of between US$8 and US$12 per day.

Malaysia is not a signatory of the United Nations Refugees Convention and does not recognise refugee status nor allow refugees to work legally. According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of the end of April 2020, some 177,800 refugees and asylum seekers were registered with the UN in Malaysia, the vast majority of whom—101,280—are Rohingya from Myanmar.

“It was chaos, people were shot by the Myanmar soldiers and our homes burned down…We didn’t know where to go, except that we had to flee.”

Abdul Wahid lost his job in March when the government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) was put in force in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, he has relied on charitable food donations from local NGOs in the area of Selayang, Kuala Lumpur. “I have no income and I haven’t been able to pay rent nor feed my family for the last three months. I worry that my landlord will kick us out,” he says.

As the pandemic raged on, things got even more difficult for refugees in Malaysia like Abdul Wahid.

Anti-Rohingya hate speech, often stemming from fabricated content, began to emerge on social media and messaging apps, which soon erupted into a seemingly organised online campaign against refugees. It has turned some netizens not only against asylum seekers like Abdul Wahid and his family, but also against migrants, especially the undocumented, who have long been a part of Malaysian society.

What Triggered the Hate Speech?

On 16 April 2020, a boat of about 200 Rohingya refugees tried to dock in Langkawi, a holiday island off Malaysia’s coast. The boat was spotted by a Malaysian Air Force jet and promptly turned away by two escorting Navy vessels after giving food to those on board.

In an earlier incident, at least 60 Rohingya refugees died after their vessel, cramped with more than 400 people, was adrift in the Bay of Bengal for two months. The bodies of those who died on the boat were thrown overboard, according to survivors. The passengers had been refused entry into Thailand and Malaysia.

Human rights groups have decried the policy of abandoning desperate people at sea as against the norms of maritime laws and basic human rights.

On 12 June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on both Malaysia and Thailand to allow Rohingya refugees stranded at sea to come ashore and offer them access to humanitarian assistance and asylum. Hundreds of Rohingyas aboard boats that left from Bangladesh in February “have been at sea for four months without access to adequate food and water,” HRW said in a statement.

While governments have said the measures keeping refugees out were intended to keep COVID-19 out of their countries, Amnesty International said in astatement that the global pandemic did not justify state actions.

“The battle against COVID-19 is no excuse for regional governments to let their seas become graveyards for desperate Rohingya people,” Amnesty said.

But on social media, there is a growing anti-Rohingya sentiment among Malaysian “netizens”. Some commented that the arrival of refugees was a burden at what was already a challenging time for the country and its struggling economy. Others feared that the refugees were carrying the Coronavirus. As such, many internet users applauded the move to turn them away.

Outside Malaysia, the tragedy involving Rohingyas stuck at sea had become global news. This inadvertently put a spotlight on the newly formed Malaysian government led by the Perikatan Nasional coalition, an alliance cobbled together from former nemeses and political parties that were voted out in a landmark general election two years ago.

Just before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 Marcha week-long powertussle among three factions saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, led by Mahathir Mohamad, after only 22 months in office. The unsuspecting victor was Mahathir’s own deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, who was able to form a new government by aligning his new minority party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) with the older and larger Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of former Prime Minister Najib Razak who is currently on trial for corruption.

Malaysians, divided over the new government, continued to heckle and play up the so-called “illegitimacy” of the coalition as a “backdoor government” even as the country was facing the brunt of the pandemic.

In the days following the barrage of local and international criticisms from rights groups and citizen petitioners against Malaysia’s push-out policy on the Rohingyas, a backlash was brewing at home.

“The battle against COVID-19 is no excuse for regional governments to let their seas become graveyards for desperate Rohingya people.”

Old videos of Rohingya activist Zafar Ahmad, speaking in a mix of English and Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia, started making the rounds on social media. But the videos that were recirculated contained subtitles or captions that did not accurately reflect what Zafar was saying. The captions claimed that he wasdemanding equal rights and full citizenship in Malaysia, an accusation that Zafar has denied. The fabricated captions have been debunked by several media websites.

“I am very sad because there are many false accusations made against me on social media. I was accused of saying that Malays are stupid. I was accused of demanding equal rights. I was accused of demanding citizenship…All these are false accusations,” he said in a video clip picked up by a local news portal.

Before the week was over, racist and xenophobic vitriols against the Rohingya community had blown up. Some of the remarks posted on Facebook in English and Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia by seemingly personal accounts were as follows:

“I am a Malaysian and I can be racist to those stinky scumbags who don’t respect our deeds and laws. So go f**k your Rohingya asses into the seas, most of us don’t care and don’t want Rohingya refugees.”

“If they are like that, we should just shoot them one by one…

Zafar and his family now live in fear. He has received death threats and his Facebook page has been bombarded and spammed with racist epithets, forcing him to close his account and change his mobile phone number. He has since refused to speak to the media for fear of reprisals.

Blaming the Foreigner

“Fearing ‘outsiders’ is one of humans’ oldest and built-in psychological tendencies. When we fear outsiders, we dehumanise them,” clinical psychologist Vizla Kumaresan tells New Naratif. “In Malaysia, immigrants, especially economic migrants and refugees, have always been associated with being dangerous and dirty. [With the] Movement Control Order and pandemic that is happening now, it exaggerates the threat that is already associated with migrants [and refugees].”

Kumaresan, who is currently pursuing a PhD on marginalised groups in Malaysia, explains that this is one possible explanation for the recent increase in xenophobic sentiment amongst Malaysians expressed online. She said she has been surprised by the speed and intensity in which anti-Rohingya hate speech in particular became mainstream.

The phenomenon has been followed closely by Harris Zainul, an analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia whose primary research is on the consequences of social media misinformation and disinformation on democracy and societal relations.

“Based on my observation of the hate speech on the Rohingyas, there are undoubtedly normal social media users responsible for spreading and perpetuating the anti-Rohingya rhetoric. But having said that, there is definitive evidence of manipulated content being introduced into the information environment to further inflame hatred,” Harris tells New Naratif.

“When we fear outsiders, we dehumanise them…In Malaysia, immigrants, especially economic migrants and refugees, have always been associated with being dangerous and dirty.”

He says he has observed a spate of newly created accounts such as “Malaysians Against Illegal Immigrants”, and accounts that seem to have auto-generated usernames that “create and share nothing but anti-Rohingya content.” He adds, “These are often tell-tale signs of these being bots or ‘sock-puppet’ accounts.”

Sock-puppet accounts are fictitious online identities created for the purpose of deception to generate a false majority opinion. Another example of a sock-puppet account is the usage of an actual person’s identity, with their name and photograph, but attributing fictitious posts to that identity.

Harris observes that there appears to be a pattern of content being manipulated towards a certain end. News outlets Cilisos.my and Sebenarnya.my presented a long list of anti-Rohingya fabricated content that went viral, and debunked each one of them with facts. In one piece of fake news content that was shared, a video of a group of people fighting with uniformed officers was attributed to Rohingya violence in Malaysia. It later came to light that the video was actually of a protest in Indonesia shot in Pekanbaru. By then, the video had already been widely shared on WhatsApp accompanied by the false information.

“The volume of disinformation is immense and it is meant to confuse the truth. With the truth being obfuscated, the disinformation creates a negative picture of the Rohingya community and also of the migrant workers without proper documentation in Malaysia,” Harris says. “With this negative picture, public opinion can then be swayed potentially leading to the demonisation and dehumanisation of these groups.”

An Orchestrated Campaign?

Tengku Emma Zuriana, a Malaysian advocate for refugee rights, was among those who bore the brunt of the anti-Rohingya and anti-immigrant hate speech online. She is also the Malaysian ambassador for the European Rohingya Council and a vocal advocate for Rohingya welfare.

“I don’t believe the sudden anti-Rohingya hate speech evolved organically. It was simply too fast, the barrage of vicious comments and slander on the Rohingya community and personal attacks on me. Some of these are made by politically-linked social media pages,” she tells New Naratif.

According to Tengku Emma, one of the social media accounts was Bersatu.tv, which claims to be the official media site for the BERSATU party of the Perikatan National coalition. Bersatu.tv has not responded to New Naratif’s requests for comment.

Due to the barrage of negative comments, Tengku Emma was forced to close her comments section on Facebook, which then prevented Rohingyas who were in dire need of aid from posting requests for help. One of the Facebook posts that attacked her had been shared 18,000 times before it was removed. Her personal data such as her home address, mobile number and car number plate were shared online, while strangers threatened to beat, rape and kill her and her family after the MCO in Malaysia ends. Out of fear for her family’s safety, she sent her young son to live with a relative in an undisclosed location.

Tengku Emma made three police reports and at least 20 complaints to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, a government regulator of the communications and multimedia industry. She demanded that the offending posts and her personal details be taken down from several Facebook pages, whose administrators eventually complied.

“People became so misinformed by all the distorted messages. And our government did not do anything to de-escalate the tensions, nor did they attempt to correct the fake news. In fact, they allowed it to escalate,” she adds.

Persecution of Refugees and Migrants

On 30 April, after the conflagration of xenophobic hate speech was permitted to fester for a couple of weeks, Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin, from the BERSATU party, said that the government does not recognise the refugee statusof any group, including Rohingyas—even if they carry a card from the UN Refugee Agency. He said that such groups are classified as “illegal” immigrants or foreigners without proper documents and that they “do not have the status, rights and basis to demand anything from the government.”

Failure to distinguish between refugees and migrant workers without proper documentation is problematic. Adrian Pereira, director of North South Initiative, a human rights NGO, says that lumping together refugees and undocumented migrants as “illegal immigrants” can mislead citizens to have a negative perception of non-citizens, and hides the complexities of how a migrant who is documented can become undocumented.

“By lumping together refugees and undocumented migrants as illegal immigrants, the government criminalises the innocent and gives impunity to the actual criminals including those who are responsible for the mass accumulation of undocumented migrants.”

While refugees flee from persecution in their homeland, migrants travel to the country to work, either of their own accord or through government initiatives. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that there were 2 million to 4 million undocumented migrants in the country as of the end of 2018.

Many of them were brought in by bogus employment agents for an exorbitant fee and left stranded without actual legal jobs. Yet, others who were hired legally were left without proper documents when their employers failed to renew their visas or were fired when employers could no longer afford to keep them.

“By lumping together refugees and undocumented migrants as illegal immigrants, the government criminalises the innocent and gives impunity to the actual criminals including those who are responsible for the mass accumulation of undocumented migrants,” Pereira tells New Naratif.

On Labour Day, mass arrests of undocumented migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, took place in several areas within the capital. While the move was criticised by rights groups, many Malaysians threw their support behind it. The government justified its decision as a necessary move to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cases. The measure earned the government brownie points from some citizens for its tough handling of the pandemic.

“Just imagine where will [undocumented migrants] go once the Enhanced MCO ends?” Pereira says.

But rights organisations warn that the mass arrests and detention of migrants could escalate the spread of the coronavirus in cramped quarters. There were also warnings about how this move would instill fear in migrants and refugeesand drive them underground, thus creating risks of further infections. Indeed, since the mass arrests in recent months where thousands of undocumented migrants and refugees were handcuffed and cramped into lorries transporting them to detention centres, there have been three active clusters discovered in three immigration detention centres.

“I hear that the government is arresting refugees. It makes me very scared because I have a wife and a child. But we are just borrowing to stay in this country, this is not our country, so I can’t say anything. We just hope Malaysians will understand our situation and allow us to stay here temporarily until we are resettled,” says Abdul Wahid who holds a UNHCR card.

This article was first published in New Naratif on 20 June 2020

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Kempen Kebencian? Berita Palsu dan Retorik Anti-Pelarian di Malaysia

Kempen Kebencian? Berita Palsu dan Retorik Anti-Pelarian di Malaysia

AUTHOR: Jules Rahman Ong, Translator: Tina Carmillia
PUBLISHED: 

Penafian: Artikel ini mengandungi bahasa yang menggambarkan keganasan terhadap pelarian dan wanita yang mungkin akan menyinggung para pembaca.

Abdul Wahid, 40, tiba di Malaysia tujuh tahun yang lalu dengan sampan nelayan yang buruk, sesak dengan 135 yang lain—angka yang sehingga kini masih diingatinya. Dia bersama isteri dan bayinya tidak pernah merancang untuk pergi ke Malaysia. Tetapi mereka dipaksa untuk melarikan diri dari Angkatan Tentera Myanmar yang telah membakar kampung mereka di Wilayah Rakhine.

“Keadaan sangat kelam-kabut, penduduk ditembak tentera Myanmar dan rumah-rumah kami dibakar,” kata Abdul Wahid mengenai serangan yang menimpa kampung halamannya. “Kami berlari ke tepi pantai dan memasuki sebuah bot nelayan besar yang dimiliki salah seorang penduduk kampung dan melarikan diri. Kami tidak tahu ke mana harus kami pergi, yang kami tahu, kami perlu melarikan diri.”

Terdesak dan tanpa pilihan lain, rentetan peristiwa yang berlaku selepas itu mengakibatkan Abdul Wahid dan keluarganya dijadikan tebusan oleh penyeludup dan dibawa ke Malaysia. Dalam tujuh tahun sejak kejadian itu, dia telah bekerja dalam berbagai pekerjaan secara haram—termasuklah menolak kereta sorong untuk menjual sayur di pasar borong, mengumpul bahan kitar semula dan bekerja sebagai pekerja pembinaan. Pekerjaannya yang terbaru adalah mengimpal penghawa dingin untuk gaji sedikit, iaitu antara AS$8 dan AS$12 sehari.

Malaysia tidak menandatangani Konvensyen Pelarian Persatuan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu dan tidak mengiktiraf status pelarian atau membenarkan pelarian bekerja secara sah. Menurut Agensi Pelarian PBB, setakat akhir April 2020, sekitar 177,800 pelarian dan pencari suaka telah didaftarkan dengan PBB di Malaysia, di mana sebahagian besarnya—101,280—ialah Rohingya dari Myanmar.

“Keadaan sangat kelam-kabut, penduduk ditembak tentera Myanmar dan rumah-rumah kami dibakar… Kami tidak tahu ke mana harus kami pergi, yang kami tahu, kami perlu melarikan diri.”

Abdul Wahid kehilangan pekerjaannya pada bulan Mac ketika kerajaan melaksanakan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (PKP) sebagai langkah untuk mencegah wabak pandemik COVID-19.

Semenjak itu, dia bergantung kepada sumbangan makanan amal dari NGO tempatan di kawasan Selayang, Kuala Lumpur. “Saya tidak mempunyai sebarang pendapatan dan saya tidak mampu membayar sewa atau memberi makan kepada keluarga saya sejak tiga bulan yang lalu. Saya bimbang tuan rumah saya akan mengusir kami,” katanya.

Sambil wabak pandemik semakin marak, keadaan menjadi semakin sukar untuk pelarian seperti Abdul Wahid di Malaysia.

Suara benci anti-Rohingya, yang sering kali berasal dari kandungan palsu, mula muncul di media sosial dan aplikasi pesanan dan tidak lama kemudian meletus menjadi kempen dalam talian yang kelihatan terancang untuk menentang pelarian. Ini menjadikan sebilangan netizen bukan sahaja menentang pencari suaka seperti Abdul Wahid dan keluarganya, tetapi juga menentang pendatang, terutama yang tidak berdokumen, yang telah lama menjadi sebahagian daripada masyarakat Malaysia.

Apa yang Mencetuskan Suara Benci?

Pada 16hb April 2020, sebuah bot yang membawa sekitar 200 pelarian Rohingya cuba untuk berlabuh di Langkawi, sebuah pulau percutian di pesisiran Malaysia. Bot itu dikesan oleh jet Angkatan Udara Malaysia dan segera ditolak oleh dua kapal Angkatan Laut yang mengiringinya setelah makanan diberikan kepada mereka yang berada di dalam bot itu.

Dalam sebuah kejadian sebelumnya, sekurang-kurangnya 60 pelarian Rohingya meninggal dunia setelah kapal mereka, yang sesak dengan lebih daripada 400 orang, hanyut di Teluk Benggala selama dua bulan. Mayat mereka yang mati di dalam kapal dilemparkan ke laut, menurut mangsa-mangsa yang terselamat. Para penumpangnya sebelum itu tidak dibenarkan masuk ke Thailand dan Malaysia.

Kumpulan hak asasi manusia telah mengecam dasar untuk mengabaikan orang yang terdesak di laut kerana ia bertentangan dengan norma undang-undang maritim dan hak asasi manusia.

Pada 12hb Jun, Human Rights Watch (HRW) meminta Malaysia dan Thailand untuk membenarkan pelarian Rohingya yang terdampar di laut untuk mendarat dan menawarkan mereka akses kepada bantuan kemanusiaan dan perlindungan. Ratusan Rohingya di atas kapal yang berangkat dari Bangladesh pada bulan Februari “telah berada di laut selama empat bulan tanpa akses kepada makanan dan air yang mencukupi,” kata HRW dalam satu kenyataan.

Walaupun kerajaan-kerajan telah mengatakan bahawa langkah-langkah yang diambil untuk memastikan pelarian tidak diterima masuk adalah bertujuan untuk menjauhkan negara mereka dari COVID-19, Amnesty International berkata dalam satu kenyataan bahawa pandemik global tidak mewajarkan tindakan tersebut.

“Perang melawan COVID-19 bukanlah alasan bagi kerajaan perantauan untuk membiarkan kawasan perairan mereka menjadi kawasan perkuburan bagi orang Rohingya yang terdesak,” kata Amnesty.

Pelarian etnik Rohingya berlindung di Malaysia, setelah melarikan diri daripada konflik dan pelanggaran hak asasi di Myanmar. Mereka hidup sebagai penghuni setinggan di bandar dan bekerja secara haram dalam ekonomi tidak rasmi. Semasa wabak COVID-19, ramai yang kehilangan pekerjaan dan menjadi sasaran ejekan dalam talian dan kata-kata benci berbaur xenofobik.
Pelarian etnik Rohingya berlindung di Malaysia, setelah melarikan diri daripada konflik dan pelanggaran hak asasi di Myanmar. Mereka hidup sebagai penghuni setinggan di bandar dan bekerja secara haram dalam ekonomi tidak rasmi. Semasa wabak COVID-19, ramai yang kehilangan pekerjaan dan menjadi sasaran ejekan dalam talian dan kata-kata benci berbaur xenofobik. Jules Rahman Ong

Tetapi di media sosial, terdapat sentimen anti-Rohingya yang semakin tinggi di kalangan “netizen” Malaysia. Ada yang mengulas bahawa kedatangan pelarian adalah suatu beban tatkala negara sedang menghadapi masa yang mencabar dan ekonomi yang sedang bergelut. Yang lain pula takut bahawa pelarian akan membawa Coronavirus. Maka, banyak pengguna internet memuji langkah untuk menolak mereka.

Di luar Malaysia, tragedi yang melibatkan Rohingya yang terkandas di laut telah menjadi berita antarabangsa. Tanpa disengajakan, ini meletakkan tumpuan kepada kerajaan Malaysia yang baru dibentuk yang diketuai oleh gabungan Perikatan Nasional, sebuah pakatan yang terdiri daripada bekas musuh dan parti-parti politik yang tidak dilantik dalam pilihan raya umum bersejarah dua tahun lalu.

Sebelum sahaja COVID-19 diisytiharkan sebagai wabak pandemik pada 11hb Mac, perebutan kuasa selama seminggu antara tiga puak politik menyaksikan kejatuhan kerajaan Pakatan Harapan (PH), yang dipimpin oleh Mahathir Mohamad, setelah hanya 22 bulan memegang jawatan. Pemenang yang tidak disangkakan adalah timbalan Mahathir sendiri, Muhyiddin Yassin, yang berjaya membentuk kerajaan baru dengan pakatan antara parti minoriti barunya, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (BERSATU) dengan Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) yang lebih lama dan lebih besar, dan Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu (UMNO), parti bekas Perdana Menteri, Najib Razak yang kini sedang dibicarakan atas tuduhan rasuah.

Rakyat Malaysia, yang berbelah bahagi dengan kerajaan baru, terus mencemuh apa dikatakan “ketidaksahan” gabungan itu sebagai “kerajaan pintu belakang” biarpun ketika itu negara sedang mengalami kesan buruk yang melanda akibat pandemik.

Pada hari-hari berikutan kritikan tempatan dan antarabangsa yang berterusan dari kumpulan hak asasi dan pemohon kewarganegaraan yang menentang dasar tolak bot Malaysia terhadap Rohingya, reaksi balas sedang berkembang di tanah air.

“Perang melawan COVID-19 bukanlah alasan bagi kerajaan perantauan untuk membiarkan kawasan perairan mereka menjadi kawasan perkuburan bagi orang Rohingya yang terdesak.”

Video-video lama aktivis Rohingya Zafar Ahmad, yang bertutur dalam kacukan bahasa Inggeris dan Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia, mula menular di media sosial. Namun, video yang disebarkan itu mengandungi sari kata atau kapsyen yang tidak menggambarkan apa yang dikatakan oleh Zafar dengan tepat. Kapsyen tersebut mendakwa bahawa dia menuntut hak yang sama dan kewarganegaraan penuh di Malaysia, suatu tuduhan yang disangkal oleh Zafar. Kapsyen palsu itu telahpun dibuktikan salah oleh beberapa laman web media.

“Saya sangat sedih kerana banyak tuduhan palsu terhadap saya di media sosial. Saya dituduh mengatakan bahawa orang Melayu bodoh. Saya dituduh menuntut hak yang sama. Saya dituduh menuntut kewarganegaraan… Semua ini ialah tuduhan palsu,” katanya dalam klip video yang dipetik oleh portal berita tempatan.

Sebelum pengakhiran minggu itu, kritikan jahat yang berbaur perkauman dan xenofobia terhadap komuniti Rohingya telah membuak. Beberapa komen yang disiarkan di Facebook dalam Bahasa Inggeris dan Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia oleh akaun yang tampak peribadi adalah seperti berikut:

“Saya orang Malaysia dan saya boleh bersikap rasis terhadap mereka yang busuk haprak yang tidak menghormati perbuatan dan undang-undang kita. Jadi, pergi mampuslah Rohingya ke laut, kebanyakan kami tidak peduli dan tidak mahu pelarian Rohingya.”

“Kalau mereka macam itu, kita perlu tembak mereka satu persatu…”

Zafar dan keluarganya kini hidup dalam ketakutan. Dia telah menerima ugutan bunuh dan halaman Facebook-nya telah dihujani dengan julukan rasis, sehingga dia dipaksa menutup akaunnya dan menukar nombor telefon bimbitnya. Sejak itu, dia enggan bercakap dengan media kerana takut akan tindakan balas buruk.

Menyalahkan Orang Asing

“Takut akan ‘orang luar’ adalah salah satu kecenderungan psikologi tertua dan paling terpahat di dalam manusia. Apabila kita takut akan orang luar, kita tidak berperikemanusiaan,” kata ahli psikologi klinikal Vizla Kumaresan kepada New Naratif. “Di Malaysia, pendatang, terutama pendatang dan pelarian ekonomi, selalu dikaitkan dengan bahaya dan kotor. [Dengan] Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan dan pandemik yang sedang berlangsung sekarang, ia membesar-besarkan ancaman yang sudah dikaitkan dengan pendatang [dan pelarian].”

Kumaresan, yang kini sedang mengikuti pengajian PhD tentang kumpulan terpinggir di Malaysia, menjelaskan bahawa ini antara satu kemungkinan yang menjelaskan peningkatan sentimen xenofobik dalam kalangan rakyat Malaysia yang dinyatakan dalam talian. Dia mengatakan bahawa dia terkejut dengan kepantasan dan kesungguhan suara benci anti-Rohingya terutamanya menjadi arus perdana.

Fenomena ini telah diperhatikan dengan teliti oleh Harris Zainul, seorang penganalisis di Institut Kajian Strategik dan Antarabangsa Malaysia yang penyelidikan utamanya adalah mengenai kesan maklumat salah dan maklumat palsu dengan niat jahat di media sosial terhadap demokrasi dan hubungan masyarakat.

“Berdasarkan pemerhatian saya terhadap suara benci terhadap Rohingya, sudah pasti ada pengguna media sosial yang normal yang bertanggungjawab menyebarkan dan meneruskan retorik anti-Rohingya. Walaupun begitu, ada bukti pasti bahawa kandungan yang dimanipulasi telah diperkenalkan ke dalam lingkungan informasi untuk mengapi-apikan lagi kebencian,” kata Harris kepada New Naratif.

“Apabila kita takut akan orang luar, kita tidak berperikemanusiaan…Di Malaysia, pendatang, terutama pendatang dan pelarian ekonomi, selalu dikaitkan dengan bahaya dan kotor.”

Beliau berkata bahawa dia telah melihat sejumlah akaun yang baru dibuka seperti “Rakyat Malaysia Menentang Pendatang Tanpa Izin”, dan akaun yang kelihatan mempunyai nama pengguna yang dihasilkan secara automatik yang “tidak membuat dan berkongsi sebarang kandungan lain kecuali berkaitan isu anti-Rohingya.” Tambahnya, “Ini adalah tanda-tanda yang sering disebut-sebut sebagai bot atau akaun ‘boneka’.”

Akaun boneka adalah identiti rekaan dalam talian yang dicipta untuk tujuan penipuan supaya menghasilkan pendapat majoriti palsu. Contoh lain akaun boneka adalah penggunaan identiti orang sebenar, dengan nama dan gambar mereka, tetapi mengaitkan catatan rekaan dengan identiti itu.

Pemerhatian Harris menunjukkan bahawa terdapat corak yang menunjukkan kandungan yang dimanipulasi adalah untuk menuju ke arah tertentu. Saluran berita Cilisos.my dan Sebenarnya.my menerbitkan senarai panjang kandungan palsu tentang isu anti-Rohingya yang menjadi tular, dan membongkar setiap satunya dengan fakta. Dalam satu isi kandungan berita palsu yang dikongsi, video sekumpulan orang yang bergaduh dengan pegawai berpakaian seragam telah dikaitkan dengan keganasan Rohingya di Malaysia. Kemudian ia didedahkan bahawa video itu sebenarnya adalah dari tunjuk perasaan di Indonesia yang dirakam di Pekanbaru. Apabila pendedahan itu dilakukan, video itu telahpun dikongsi secara meluas di WhatsApp disertakan dengan maklumat palsu tersebut.

“Jumlah maklumat yang palsu dengan niat jahat sangat besar dan ia bertujuan untuk mengelirukan kebenaran. Apabila kebenaran disamarkan, maklumat palsu tersebut menimbulkan gambaran negatif tentang komuniti Rohingya dan juga pekerja migran tanpa dokumentasi yang betul di Malaysia,” kata Harris. “Dengan gambaran negatif ini, pendapat umum kemudian dapat dipengaruhi dan berpotensi menyebabkan penjahanaman dan penghancuran sifat kemanusiaan terhadap kelompok ini.”

Kempen yang Diatur?

Tengku Emma Zuriana, seorang aktivis dan pembela hak pelarian Malaysia, merupakan salah satu di antara mereka yang menjadi mangsa kata-kata benci anti-Rohingya dan anti-pendatang dalam talian. Dia juga duta besar Malaysia ke Majlis Rohingya Eropah dan penyokong vokal terhadap kebajikan Rohingya.

“Saya tidak percaya kata-kata benci anti-Rohingya yang tiba-tiba berkembang itu berlaku dengan organik. Ia berlaku terlalu cepat, komen keji dan fitnah terhadap komuniti Rohingya yang tidak henti-henti dan serangan peribadi terhadap saya. Sebahagian daripadanya dibuat oleh laman media sosial yang berkaitan dengan politik,” katanya kepada New Naratif.

Tangkapan skrin hantaran Facebook oleh Bersatu.tv yang mendakwa mereka adalah platform media rasmi untuk parti BERSATU yang mentadbir kerajaan. Bersatu.tv telah mengeluarkan hantaran yang mengandungi maklumat palsu yang menimbulkan kebencian terhadap Rohingya. Hantaran ini menuduh orang Rohingya “berkemampuan mental rendah” dan melakukan rusuhan di Kuala Lumpur dan menuntut agar lebih ramai orang Rohingya diterima di Malaysia.
Tangkapan skrin hantaran Facebook oleh Bersatu.tv yang mendakwa mereka adalah platform media rasmi untuk parti BERSATU yang mentadbir kerajaan. Bersatu.tv telah mengeluarkan hantaran yang mengandungi maklumat palsu yang menimbulkan kebencian terhadap Rohingya. Hantaran ini menuduh orang Rohingya “berkemampuan mental rendah” dan melakukan rusuhan di Kuala Lumpur dan menuntut agar lebih ramai orang Rohingya diterima di Malaysia. 

Menurut Tengku Emma, salah satu akaun media sosial tersebut adalah Bersatu.tv, yang mendakwa mereka adalah platform media rasmi untuk parti BERSATU dari gabungan Perikatan Nasional. Bersatu.tv belum membalas permintaan komen dari New Naratif.

Akibat rentetan komen-komen negatif, Tengku Emma terpaksa menutup bahagian komennya di Facebook, yang menyebabkan Rohingya yang sangat memerlukan bantuan tidak dapat meminta bantuan. Salah satu hantaran Facebook yang menyerangnya telah dikongsi sebanyak 18,000 kali sebelum dipadamkan. Data peribadinya seperti alamat rumahnya, nombor telefon bimbit dan nombor kenderaannya dikongsi dalam talian, sementara orang yang tidak dikenali mengancam untuk memukul, merogol dan membunuh dia dan keluarganya setelah PKP di Malaysia berakhir. Kerana bimbang akan keselamatan keluarganya, dia menghantar anak lelakinya yang masih kecil untuk tinggal bersama saudara di lokasi yang tidak didedahkan.

Duta Besar Malaysia ke Majlis Rohingya Eropah Tengku Emma Zuriana digelar pengkhianat negara kerana menyokong hak Rohingya. Dia telah membuat sejumlah laporan polis terhadap pengguna beberapa akaun Facebook, termasuk yang ini, kerana fitnah. Tangkapan skrin hantaran Facebook ini memanggilnya pengkhianat kerana menyokong mereka yang “cuba merampas semua hak istimewa dan hak warganegara Malaysia dan mengkhianati negara ini.”
Duta Besar Malaysia ke Majlis Rohingya Eropah Tengku Emma Zuriana digelar pengkhianat negara kerana menyokong hak Rohingya. Dia telah membuat sejumlah laporan polis terhadap pengguna beberapa akaun Facebook, termasuk yang ini, kerana fitnah. Tangkapan skrin hantaran Facebook ini memanggilnya pengkhianat kerana menyokong mereka yang “cuba merampas semua hak istimewa dan hak warganegara Malaysia dan mengkhianati negara ini.” 

Tengku Emma membuat tiga laporan polis dan sekurang-kurangnya 20 aduan kepada Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia, sebuah badan penyeliaan industri komunikasi dan multimedia. Dia menuntut agar hantaran yang menyinggung perasaan dan maklumat peribadinya dihapuskan dari beberapa laman Facebook, yang akhirnya dilaksanakan oleh pengurus laman tersebut.

“Orang ramai dikelirukan oleh semua mesej yang diputarbelitkan. Dan kerajaan kita langsung tidak melakukan apa-apa untuk mengurangkan ketegangan, dan mereka juga tidak berusaha untuk memperbetulkan berita palsu itu. Malah, mereka membiarkannya terus menjadi-jadi,” tambahnya.

Penindasan Pelarian dan Pendatang

Pada 30hb April, setelah suara kebencian berbaur xenofobia dibenarkan untuk berterusan selama beberapa minggu, Menteri Dalam Negeri Hamzah Zainuddin, dari parti BERSATU, mengatakan bahawa kerajaan tidak mengiktiraf status pelarian dari mana-mana kumpulan, termasuk Rohingya—walaupun jika mereka mempunyai kad dari Agensi Pelarian PBB. Dia berkata bahawa kumpulan tersebut diklasifikasikan sebagai pendatang “haram” atau pendatang asing tanpa dokumen yang betul dan mereka “tidak memiliki status, hak dan dasar untuk menuntut apa-apa dari kerajaan.”

Kegagalan untuk membezakan antara pelarian dan pekerja migran tanpa dokumentasi yang betul adalah bermasalah. Adrian Pereira, pengarah North South Initiative, sebuah NGO hak asasi manusia, berkata bahawa mengelompokkan pelarian dan pendatang tanpa dokumen sebagai “pendatang haram” dapat menyesatkan rakyat untuk memiliki persepsi negatif terhadap orang bukan warganegara, dan menyembunyikan kerumitan di sebalik sebab-sebab seorang pendatang yang berdokumen boleh menjadi tidak berdokumen.

Pelarian melarikan diri dari penindasan di tanah air sendiri, manakala golongan pendatang pula berpindah ke sesebuah negara untuk bekerja, sama ada mengikut kehendak sendiri atau melalui inisiatif kerajaan. Pertubuhan Antarabangsa Untuk Migrasi menganggarkan bahawa terdapat 2 juta hingga 4 juta pendatang tanpa dokumen di negara ini setakat akhir 2018.

Kebanyakan mereka dibawa oleh ejen pekerjaan palsu dengan bayaran yang terlalu tinggi dan dibiarkan tanpa pekerjaan sah. Namun, orang lain yang diambil untuk bekerja secara sah dibiarkan tanpa dokumen yang betul apabila majikan mereka gagal memperbaharui visa mereka atau dipecat apabila majikan tidak lagi mampu menggajikan mereka.

“Apabila pelarian dan pendatang tanpa dokumen dikelompokkan bersama sebagai pendatang haram, kerajaan menjadikan orang yang tidak bersalah sebagai penjenayah dan memberi kekebalan kepada penjenayah sebenar termasuklah mereka yang bertanggungjawab ke atas bilangan pendatang tanpa dokumen yang melambung tinggi,” kata Pereira kepada New Naratif.

Pada Hari Buruh, penangkapan besar-besaran pendatang tanpa dokumen, termasuk pelarian dan pencari suaka, berlaku di beberapa kawasan di ibu kota. Walaupun tindakan itu dikritik oleh kumpulan hak asasi, banyak rakyat Malaysia menyokong tindakan itu. Kerajaan mewajarkan tindakan itu sebagai langkah yang perlu untuk mencegah penyebaran kes COVID-19. Langkah itu memberikan kerajaan sedikit sokongan dari sebilangan rakyat kerana menangani wabak itu dengan tegas.

Kerajaan Malaysia membatalkan jaminan terdahulu yang menyatakan mereka tidak akan menangkap pelarian dan pendatang tanpa dokumen dengan harapan mereka akan diuji untuk COVID-19. Ribuan telah ditangkap dan ditempatkan di kem tahanan yang sesak sehingga menyebabkan kluster aktif yang baru.
Kerajaan Malaysia membatalkan jaminan terdahulu yang menyatakan mereka tidak akan menangkap pelarian dan pendatang tanpa dokumen dengan harapan mereka akan diuji untuk COVID-19. Ribuan telah ditangkap dan ditempatkan di kem tahanan yang sesak sehingga menyebabkan kluster aktif yang baru. Jules Rahman Ong

“Bayangkan ke mana perginya [pendatang tanpa dokumen] setelah PKP Diperketatkan berakhir?” kata Pereira.

Tetapi organisasi hak asasi memberi amaran bahawa penangkapan besar-besaran dan penahanan pendatang boleh meningkatkan penyebaran coronavirus di tempat sesak. Mereka juga mengatakan bahawa penangkapan besar-besaran boleh menimbulkan ketakutan di kalangan pendatang dan pelarian yang akan mendorong mereka bersembunyi, sehingga menimbulkan risiko jangkitan lebih lanjut. Sememangnya sejak penangkapan besar-besaran beberapa bulan kebelakangan ini di mana ribuan pendatang dan pelarian yang tidak berdokumen digari dan disumbat ke dalam lori yang membawa mereka ke pusat tahanan, sudah terjadi tiga kluster aktif yang dikenal pasti di tiga pusat tahanan imigresen. Kementerian Kesihatan mengumumkan pada bulan Jun bahawa penyebaran COVID-19 di ketiga-tiga pusat tahanan imigresen berkenaan “terkawal” setelah semua tahanan berisiko tinggi diuji dan ditempatkan di kuarantin, Malay Mail melaporkan.

“Saya mendengar khabar bahawa kerajaan sedang menangkap pelarian. Ini membuat saya sangat takut kerana saya mempunyai isteri dan anak. Tetapi kami hanya memohon untuk duduk di negara ini. Ini bukan negara kami, jadi saya tidak dapat berkata apa-apa. Kami hanya berharap rakyat Malaysia akan memahami keadaan kami dan membenarkan kami tinggal di sini buat sementara waktu sehinggalah kami dapat ditempatkan semula,” kata Abdul Wahid yang memegang kad UNHCR.

JULES RAHMAN ONG

Jules Rahman Ong is a freelance writer, fixer, producer and an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker. He holds a permaculture design certificate and is passionate about creating an inclusive world where humans co-exist with nature.

TRANSLATOR: TINA CARMILLIA

Tina Carmillia is a freelance science journalist and producer. She is also a researcher studying misinformation, focusing on Malay-speaking online spaces, its intersection with data and democracy, as well as the state of fact-checking and verification practices in the Malaysian media.
By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized

Campaign of Hate? Fake News and Anti-Refugee Rhetoric in Malaysia

Campaign of Hate? Fake News and Anti-Refugee Rhetoric in Malaysia

source by https://newnaratif.com/journalism/campaign-of-hate-fake-news-and-anti-refugee-rhetoric-in-malaysia/

AUTHOR: Jules Rahman Ong

PUBLISHED: 

TRANSLATIONS:

Disclaimer: This article contains descriptions of violent language directed towards refugees and women which some readers may find distressing.

Abdul Wahid, 40, came to Malaysia seven years ago in a rickety fishing boat cramped with 135 others—it’s a number he still remembers to this day. He, his wife and baby never planned to go to Malaysia. But they were forced to flee from the Myanmar Army who burned down their village in Rakhine State.

“It was chaos, people were shot by the Myanmar soldiers and our homes burned down,” Abdul Wahid says of the attacks that befell his village. “We ran to the shore and got into a big fishing boat that belonged to one of the villagers and escaped. We didn’t know where to go, except that we had to flee.”

Desperation and a lack of options led to a string of events that resulted in Abdul Wahid and his family being held for ransom by traffickers and taken to Malaysia. In the seven years since, he has worked in a variety of jobs illegally—from pushing vegetable carts in a wholesale market, to collecting recyclables and working in construction. His most recent job was welding air-conditioners for meagre wages of between US$8 and US$12 per day.

Malaysia is not a signatory of the United Nations Refugees Convention and does not recognise refugee status nor allow refugees to work legally. According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of the end of April 2020, some 177,800 refugees and asylum seekers were registered with the UN in Malaysia, the vast majority of whom—101,280—are Rohingya from Myanmar.

“It was chaos, people were shot by the Myanmar soldiers and our homes burned down…We didn’t know where to go, except that we had to flee.”

Abdul Wahid lost his job in March when the government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) was put in force in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, he has relied on charitable food donations from local NGOs in the area of Selayang, Kuala Lumpur. “I have no income and I haven’t been able to pay rent nor feed my family for the last three months. I worry that my landlord will kick us out,” he says.

As the pandemic raged on, things got even more difficult for refugees in Malaysia like Abdul Wahid.

Anti-Rohingya hate speech, often stemming from fabricated content, began to emerge on social media and messaging apps, which soon erupted into a seemingly organised online campaign against refugees. It has turned some netizens not only against asylum seekers like Abdul Wahid and his family, but also against migrants, especially the undocumented, who have long been a part of Malaysian society.

What Triggered the Hate Speech?

On 16 April 2020, a boat of about 200 Rohingya refugees tried to dock in Langkawi, a holiday island off Malaysia’s coast. The boat was spotted by a Malaysian Air Force jet and promptly turned away by two escorting Navy vessels after giving food to those on board.

In an earlier incident, at least 60 Rohingya refugees died after their vessel, cramped with more than 400 people, was adrift in the Bay of Bengal for two months. The bodies of those who died on the boat were thrown overboard, according to survivors. The passengers had been refused entry into Thailand and Malaysia.

Human rights groups have decried the policy of abandoning desperate people at sea as against the norms of maritime laws and basic human rights.

On 12 June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on both Malaysia and Thailand to allow Rohingya refugees stranded at sea to come ashore and offer them access to humanitarian assistance and asylum. Hundreds of Rohingyas aboard boats that left from Bangladesh in February “have been at sea for four months without access to adequate food and water,” HRW said in a statement.

While governments have said the measures keeping refugees out were intended to keep COVID-19 out of their countries, Amnesty International said in a statement that the global pandemic did not justify state actions.

“The battle against COVID-19 is no excuse for regional governments to let their seas become graveyards for desperate Rohingya people,” Amnesty said.

Ethnic Rohingya refugees seek refuge in Malaysia, fleeing from conflict and rights violations in Myanmar. They live as urban squatters and work illegally in the informal economy. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many lost their jobs and were the target of online ridicule and xenophobic hate speech. Jules Rahman Ong

But on social media, there is a growing anti-Rohingya sentiment among Malaysian “netizens”. Some commented that the arrival of refugees was a burden at what was already a challenging time for the country and its struggling economy. Others feared that the refugees were carrying the Coronavirus. As such, many internet users applauded the move to turn them away.

Outside Malaysia, the tragedy involving Rohingyas stuck at sea had become global news. This inadvertently put a spotlight on the newly formed Malaysian government led by the Perikatan Nasional coalition, an alliance cobbled together from former nemeses and political parties that were voted out in a landmark general election two years ago.

Just before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 Marcha week-long power tussle among three factions saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, led by Mahathir Mohamad, after only 22 months in office. The unsuspecting victor was Mahathir’s own deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, who was able to form a new government by aligning his new minority party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) with the older and larger Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of former Prime Minister Najib Razak who is currently on trial for corruption.

Malaysians, divided over the new government, continued to heckle and play up the so-called “illegitimacy” of the coalition as a “backdoor government” even as the country was facing the brunt of the pandemic.

In the days following the barrage of local and international criticisms from rights groups and citizen petitioners against Malaysia’s push-out policy on the Rohingyas, a backlash was brewing at home.

“The battle against COVID-19 is no excuse for regional governments to let their seas become graveyards for desperate Rohingya people.”

Old videos of Rohingya activist Zafar Ahmad, speaking in a mix of English and Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia, started making the rounds on social media. But the videos that were recirculated contained subtitles or captions that did not accurately reflect what Zafar was saying. The captions claimed that he was demanding equal rights and full citizenship in Malaysia, an accusation that Zafar has denied. The fabricated captions have been debunked by several media websites.

“I am very sad because there are many false accusations made against me on social media. I was accused of saying that Malays are stupid. I was accused of demanding equal rights. I was accused of demanding citizenship…All these are false accusations,” he said in a video clip picked up by a local news portal.

Before the week was over, racist and xenophobic vitriols against the Rohingya community had blown up. Some of the remarks posted on Facebook in English and Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia by seemingly personal accounts were as follows:

“I am a Malaysian and I can be racist to those stinky scumbags who don’t respect our deeds and laws. So go f**k your Rohingya asses into the seas, most of us don’t care and don’t want Rohingya refugees.”

“If they are like that, we should just shoot them one by one…

Zafar and his family now live in fear. He has received death threats and his Facebook page has been bombarded and spammed with racist epithets, forcing him to close his account and change his mobile phone number. He has since refused to speak to the media for fear of reprisals.

Blaming the Foreigner

“Fearing ‘outsiders’ is one of humans’ oldest and built-in psychological tendencies. When we fear outsiders, we dehumanise them,” clinical psychologist Vizla Kumaresan tells New Naratif. “In Malaysia, immigrants, especially economic migrants and refugees, have always been associated with being dangerous and dirty. [With the] Movement Control Order and pandemic that is happening now, it exaggerates the threat that is already associated with migrants [and refugees].”

Kumaresan, who is currently pursuing a PhD on marginalised groups in Malaysia, explains that this is one possible explanation for the recent increase in xenophobic sentiment amongst Malaysians expressed online. She said she has been surprised by the speed and intensity in which anti-Rohingya hate speech in particular became mainstream.

The phenomenon has been followed closely by Harris Zainul, an analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia whose primary research is on the consequences of social media misinformation and disinformation on democracy and societal relations.

“Based on my observation of the hate speech on the Rohingyas, there are undoubtedly normal social media users responsible for spreading and perpetuating the anti-Rohingya rhetoric. But having said that, there is definitive evidence of manipulated content being introduced into the information environment to further inflame hatred,” Harris tells New Naratif.

“When we fear outsiders, we dehumanise them…In Malaysia, immigrants, especially economic migrants and refugees, have always been associated with being dangerous and dirty.”

He says he has observed a spate of newly created accounts such as “Malaysians Against Illegal Immigrants”, and accounts that seem to have auto-generated usernames that “create and share nothing but anti-Rohingya content.” He adds, “These are often tell-tale signs of these being bots or ‘sock-puppet’ accounts.”

Sock-puppet accounts are fictitious online identities created for the purpose of deception to generate a false majority opinion. Another example of a sock-puppet account is the usage of an actual person’s identity, with their name and photograph, but attributing fictitious posts to that identity.

Harris observes that there appears to be a pattern of content being manipulated towards a certain end. News outlets Cilisos.my and Sebenarnya.my presented a long list of anti-Rohingya fabricated content that went viral, and debunked each one of them with facts. In one piece of fake news content that was shared, a video of a group of people fighting with uniformed officers was attributed to Rohingya violence in Malaysia. It later came to light that the video was actually of a protest in Indonesia shot in Pekanbaru. By then, the video had already been widely shared on WhatsApp accompanied by the false information.

“The volume of disinformation is immense and it is meant to confuse the truth. With the truth being obfuscated, the disinformation creates a negative picture of the Rohingya community and also of the migrant workers without proper documentation in Malaysia,” Harris says. “With this negative picture, public opinion can then be swayed potentially leading to the demonisation and dehumanisation of these groups.”

An Orchestrated Campaign?

Tengku Emma Zuriana, a Malaysian advocate for refugee rights, was among those who bore the brunt of the anti-Rohingya and anti-immigrant hate speech online. She is also the Malaysian ambassador for the European Rohingya Council and a vocal advocate for Rohingya welfare.

“I don’t believe the sudden anti-Rohingya hate speech evolved organically. It was simply too fast, the barrage of vicious comments and slander on the Rohingya community and personal attacks on me. Some of these are made by politically-linked social media pages,” she tells New Naratif.

A screenshot of a Facebook post by Bersatu.tv which claims to be the official media platform of the ruling BERSATU party. Bersatu.tv has issued posts containing false information that instigate hate against Rohingyas. This post falsely accused the Rohingya of having “low mental capacity” and of rioting in Kuala Lumpur and demanding for more Rohingya to be accepted into Malaysia. 

According to Tengku Emma, one of the social media accounts was Bersatu.tv, which claims to be the official media site for the BERSATU party of the Perikatan National coalition. Bersatu.tv has not responded to New Naratif’s requests for comment.

Due to the barrage of negative comments, Tengku Emma was forced to close her comments section on Facebook, which then prevented Rohingyas who were in dire need of aid from posting requests for help. One of the Facebook posts that attacked her had been shared 18,000 times before it was removed. Her personal data such as her home address, mobile number and car number plate were shared online, while strangers threatened to beat, rape and kill her and her family after the MCO in Malaysia ends. Out of fear for her family’s safety, she sent her young son to live with a relative in an undisclosed location.

European Rohingya Council Ambassador to Malaysia Tengku Emma Zuriana was called a traitor to the country for supporting Rohingya rights. She has filed a number of police reports against the holders of several Facebook accounts, including this one, for libel and slander. This screenshot of a Facebook post called her a traitor for supporting those who “tried to rob all the privileges and rights of the citizens of Malaysia and betray the country.” 

Tengku Emma made three police reports and at least 20 complaints to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, a government regulator of the communications and multimedia industry. She demanded that the offending posts and her personal details be taken down from several Facebook pages, whose administrators eventually complied.

“People became so misinformed by all the distorted messages. And our government did not do anything to de-escalate the tensions, nor did they attempt to correct the fake news. In fact, they allowed it to escalate,” she adds.

Persecution of Refugees and Migrants

On 30 April, after the conflagration of xenophobic hate speech was permitted to fester for a couple of weeks, Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin, from the BERSATU party, said that the government does not recognise the refugee status of any group, including Rohingyas—even if they carry a card from the UN Refugee Agency. He said that such groups are classified as “illegal” immigrants or foreigners without proper documents and that they “do not have the status, rights and basis to demand anything from the government.”

Failure to distinguish between refugees and migrant workers without proper documentation is problematic. Adrian Pereira, director of North South Initiative, a human rights NGO, says that lumping together refugees and undocumented migrants as “illegal immigrants” can mislead citizens to have a negative perception of non-citizens, and hides the complexities of how a migrant who is documented can become undocumented.

“By lumping together refugees and undocumented migrants as illegal immigrants, the government criminalises the innocent and gives impunity to the actual criminals including those who are responsible for the mass accumulation of undocumented migrants.”

While refugees flee from persecution in their homeland, migrants travel to the country to work, either of their own accord or through government initiatives. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that there were 2 million to 4 million undocumented migrants in the country as of the end of 2018.

Many of them were brought in by bogus employment agents for an exorbitant fee and left stranded without actual legal jobs. Yet, others who were hired legally were left without proper documents when their employers failed to renew their visas or were fired when employers could no longer afford to keep them.

“By lumping together refugees and undocumented migrants as illegal immigrants, the government criminalises the innocent and gives impunity to the actual criminals including those who are responsible for the mass accumulation of undocumented migrants,” Pereira tells New Naratif.

On Labour Day, mass arrests of undocumented migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, took place in several areas within the capital. While the move was criticised by rights groups, many Malaysians threw their support behind it. The government justified its decision as a necessary move to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cases. The measure earned the government brownie points from some citizens for its tough handling of the pandemic.

The Malaysian government rescinded its earlier assurance that it would not arrest refugees and undocumented migrants in the hope that they would come forward to be tested for COVID-19. Thousands have been arrested and placed in overcrowded detention camps resulting in the emergence of active new clusters. Jules Rahman Ong

“Just imagine where will [undocumented migrants] go once the Enhanced MCO ends?” Pereira says.

But rights organisations warn that the mass arrests and detention of migrants could escalate the spread of the coronavirus in cramped quarters. There were also warnings about how this move would instill fear in migrants and refugees and drive them underground, thus creating risks of further infections. Indeed, since the mass arrests in recent months where thousands of undocumented migrants and refugees were handcuffed and cramped into lorries transporting them to detention centres, there have been three active clusters discovered in three immigration detention centres.

“I hear that the government is arresting refugees. It makes me very scared because I have a wife and a child. But we are just borrowing to stay in this country, this is not our country, so I can’t say anything. We just hope Malaysians will understand our situation and allow us to stay here temporarily until we are resettled,” says Abdul Wahid who holds a UNHCR card.

JULES RAHMAN ONG

Jules Rahman Ong is a freelance writer, fixer, producer and an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker. He holds a permaculture design certificate and is passionate about creating an inclusive world where humans co-exist with nature.
By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia ( MERHROM) Posted in Uncategorized
%d bloggers like this: